Jane and Bernie Sanders campaigning in Phoenix last March.
Jane and Bernie Sanders campaigning in Phoenix last March. | Flickr, the commons

Bernie Sanders's wife blamed for Burlington College’s collapse

By Andrew Cline

American Media Institute 

The last president of Burlington College is blaming the school’s financial collapse on the “imprudent” decisions of former president Jane Sanders, wife of former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and its board of directors.

The self-described “progressive” college in Burlington, Vt., closed May 27, as officials cited the “crushing weight of debt” the private institution took on to finance a $10-million land purchase initiated by Sanders in 2010. 

In a letter to The Chronicle of Higher Education published online on Aug. 31, Carol A. Moore flagged Sanders’ inexperience and the expensive land deal as primary factors in the college’s demise.

“BC’s fate was set when its former board members hired an inexperienced president and, six years later, approved the imprudent purchase of a $10-million piece of property for campus expansion,” Moore wrote in the letter, which did not mention Sanders by name. “Enrollment that year was about 195 and the budget just over $4 million, less than half of this ill-advised investment. What were they thinking? Where was the Finance Committee when these decisions were being made?”

Sanders was hired as Burlington College president in 2004, six years before the 2010 land purchase. She left in 2011.

“More interestingly,” Moore wrote in her letter, “what bank lends a small, private, unendowed college of that size and financial status an amount that so obviously outweighs its ability to repay? People’s United Bank of Vermont. And the collateral? One planned gift of a revocable trust, payable upon the death of the donor, and the “promise” of another million-dollar gift. But, alas, no written record of such a “promise” could be found anywhere in Burlington College’s records.

“Who is to blame for this appallingly inappropriate business deal?,” Moore wrote. “Perhaps a board that steered clear of the tough questions which needed to be asked. Or a bank in the state of an influential senator — a senator, as it turned out, with bigger ambitions?”

In announcing the college’s closure in May, Moore had refrained from blaming Sanders directly. Asked about Sanders’ role by Vermont Public Radio for a May 19 story, Moore said “I think it's pretty hard to be a Monday-morning quarterback.”

Reached for comment on Thursday, Moore declined to elaborate, writing in an email, “the letter speaks for itself.”

Sen. Sanders’ office did not respond to a request for comment.