Foundation buys Stephens College land for academy

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A foundation that helps high-achieving students from rural public schools wants to build a college-preparatory academy on property it will buy from Stephens College in Columbia, college officials announced Monday.

The private women’s college said it will sell two of its properties to the Hagan Scholarship Foundation, which was founded in 2009 by Columbia real estate developer Dan Hagan, who endowed the foundation with $45 million to provide financial help to students who attend public schools in counties with fewer than 50,000 residents.

The cost of the transaction was not disclosed. If the city rezones the properties to restrict future use to match the agreement between Stephens and Hagan, the foundation will raze a residence hall and an auditorium/natatorium and then build its academy, dormitories and foundation offices.

“We’re very excited,” Stephens College President Dianne Lynch said. “We think it is a great opportunity for us and the scholarship foundation. I think we made the decision that we are as interested in our neighbors and the character of our neighborhood as in the sale of the properties.”

The foundation has awarded 90 scholarships since it began operating. Applicants to the academy will be required to meet the same standards as scholarship applicants, who must work at least 240 hours in the summer to earn money for incidental expenses.

The academy will accept 50 to 60 students initially for junior- and senior-level high school coursework, said Mark Farnen, a Hagan spokesman.

“It is a broader, academically intensive academy,” Farnen said of Hagan’s vision for the new school. “It is college-preparatory in nature, and people who excel at the academy would become eligible for additional college scholarships.”

Hagan attended rural public schools and the University of Missouri without accumulating debt.

“He wants to see these kids have the opportunity to achieve their highest potential,” Farnen said. “In many cases, they can only do that if they have the funds to do it. The foundation is solid enough to be able to take this next step.”

Stephens’ trustees decided to sell the properties because they did not fit the school’s strategic plans. Trustees rejected several offers from developers who wanted to build high-rise student housing, according to a news release.

That type of development likely would have angered neighbors, Lynch said.

“They share our educational mission, and I can’t imagine a better neighbor,” Lynch said. “We made our decisions based on our values first and the opportunity second.”

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