By Wendy Adjei and Jay Simon; The Whetstone

It’s been more than four decades since Elizabeth Vaughn Jacobs Earp donated Wesley College about $50,000 to be only used for student loans.

But because shortly afterward the College decided to stop giving out loans, it moved the money into its endowment fund. Since 1977, the money has grown into nearly $2 million.

“When Wesley stopped lending money to students the trustees had to decide what to do with the money at that time,” Dr. Jeffrey Mask, professor of religion, philosophy, and American studies, said. Mask also is a liaison to the Board of Trustees.

Instead of making loans, the College discounted student tuition. Most students now pay only half their full tuition due to the discount.

Last fall, the Board moved the money from the endowment into the College’s operating income, reducing Wesley’s endowment.

The College needed the money to remain in a good financial position, said Dr. James Wilson, associate professor of music. He also is a liaison to the Board of Trustees.

“This money in the Earp fund is money that can count against the College’s debt,” Wilson said. “It’s allowing the school to stay in financial compliance with the Department of Education, which allows students to continue to get federal loans.”

Wilson said the finances of Wesley College are complicated and moving the Earp money into the operating budget allowed the College to be in good financial standing.

“The stories that are out in the press make it look like, make it sound like, Wesley is in a hole and we’re not,” he said. “We are trying to avoid going into that and the (potential merger with another school) would help us stabilize that even more.”

Prior to moving the Earp money from the endowment, the College’s endowment was more than $6 million, which may now make Wesley endowment no more than $4 million.

Other institutions in Delaware have much higher endowments, including Goldey-Beacom, which has about $132 million; Delaware State University, at $28.6 million. The University of Delaware has a $1.4 billion endowment.

Because other colleges and universities hold large endowments, some said they were concerned with the path of Wesley College’s fundraising skills.

In October of 2016, Wesley appointed William F. Pritchard as vice president of Institutional Advancement, which is in charge of fundraising at the College.

Pritchard was supposed to head a plan to expand the College’s finances through fundraising via annual giving, gifts, outside grants. He also was responsible for alumni relations.

Pritchard left last year and has never been replaced.

According to the American Association of University Professors, the office of institution advancement is essential to a college.

“Private colleges and universities also frequently have fully staffed development offices, since they are often significantly reliant on charitable giving,” it said.