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Quest University’s president says school not closing, despite indefinite halt to academic programming

President Arthur Coren says the school will reach out to stakeholders and donors to find a way to resume courses and programs
Academic programming at Quest University in Squamish will be indefinitely paused | Quest University

Amid news that Quest University is indefinitely pausing its academic programming, the president of the school insists that the school is not closing.

“We want to take care of the students, we want to take care of our workforce, have a dignified and orderly move into cryogenesis or suspension or whatever we want to call it and the successful graduation on April 29,” Arthur Coren told The Squamish Chief on Feb. 24.

His remarks came the morning after the school announced its indefinite halt on academic activity, which will take effect at the end of the current school year.

“Everybody, from the night janitor to the president are going to receive some sort of a notice, because the same issues that preclude us from continuing academic operations mean that, obviously, we're not going to be able to sustain a workforce of that size,” Coren said.

There will be some staff left behind to wrap up administrative matters related to this pause in activity.

In the meantime, Coren said the school would be working to find a path to starting its academic programs again.

The details, however, have yet to be hashed out.

“The university needs to get things sorted out, to see what it might look like to come back again,” he said. “And that's going to involve working with the ministry, working with a group of committed stakeholders, many here in the community, and also with donors and other funders.”

Coren commended the resilience of staff and students when the announcement was made, and he emphasized how grateful he was with the support Squamish has shown the school.

The District of Squamish expressed sadness and disappointment in the wake of Quest University’s decision to suspend academic programming at the end of its school year.

“On behalf of my council colleagues and staff, we extend our best wishes to the Quest community and know how difficult this must be for the administration, students and faculty,” said Mayor Armand Hurford in a news release that was issued on Feb. 24.

“We have held the belief that Quest is an incredibly unique and special organization for more than 20 years, and it is difficult and disappointing to learn of this next step in the journey. We remain hopeful, and at the same time, will be discussing the District’s interests in this next chapter.”

The release said that the municipality has been aware of the challenges the school has faced, and it will be reflecting on what possible steps the municipality may be able to take in the wake of this announcement.

Back in 2020, Quest previously underwent protection from creditors under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

This occurred after its biggest lender, the Vanchorverve Foundation, a charity registered by Vancouver lawyer Blake Bromley, called in its loan of about $23.4 million.

Quest eventually wound up selling off its campus in order to pay off its debts.

Under this arrangement, Primacorp Ventures, headed by Peter Chung, now owns the campus buildings and lands, which are leased back to Quest.

When the Primacorp deal was announced in late 2020, the District of Squamish expressed concern about the agreement. Then-mayor Karen Elliott said, among other things, that the municipality was concerned that it could leave “a for-profit company controlling the lands, instead of a university of significant standing, should Quest not succeed.”

The municipality later approved zoning regulation changes that appeared to tie those lands closer to university uses, which Primacorp protested.

Coren told The Squamish Chief on Feb. 24 that Primacorp is aware of the school’s current situation.

“They're aware of where we're at, and we're counting on them to help us through an orderly and dignified windup,” he said.

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