- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - A Chicago-based Catholic university is closing its campus in a Phoenix suburb that was built with taxpayer money.

A Saint Xavier University spokeswoman said the school will be closed by the end of fall classes this year due to financial challenges in Illinois, the Arizona Republic reported (http://bit.ly/1TJWanV ).

“We are going through some challenges with the Illinois state budget and there is such uncertainty with what would happen in 2017,” said Karla Thomas, the university’s executive director of media relations. “Handling the challenge in Illinois makes it difficult and to handle a startup in Gilbert makes it more so.”

University officials planned to speak with students this week to discuss options.

The university opened the new campus in August 2015.

Gilbert officials took out revenue bonds totaling $37 million to design and construct the campus.

A 15-year lease agreement says the university is on the hook for $250,000 in damages as well as any rent due if the contract is unfulfilled.

Negotiations with the university began in 2011.

U.S. News and World Report ranked the university’s online graduate nursing program No. 1 nationally in 2014.

Saint Xavier’s agreement with Gilbert required that nursing, business and education degrees are offered at the new campus.

Gilbert Mayor John Lewis had previously called the university a “blessing.”

“The town of Gilbert is of course disappointed with Saint Xavier University’s decision with respect to its campus in downtown Gilbert,” he said in a Tuesday statement. “After discussions and negotiations beginning in 2011, the town and the university entered into a development agreement and 15-year lease in 2015. Saint Xavier’s expressed intentions will be considered by the town and the town will continue to focus its efforts on bringing expanded higher education opportunities to Gilbert.”

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

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