On April 6, Mount Ida College released a joint statement with the University of Massachusetts officially announcing that an agreement had been reached for the acquisition of the Mount Ida campus in Newton, MA.
Mount Ida College had initially been in talks with Lasell College about merging but was unable to reach an agreement. According to the Boston Globe, Mount Ida had originally been considering a merger with “the hope of keeping tuition as low as possible while maintaining quality academics.” However, Mount Ida president Barry Brown stated “our differences were greater than our ability to pull us together."
After having reached an agreement with the University of Massachusetts, President Brown stated: “Working with UMass, we have devised a way forward that ensures the well-being of our students, enhances the academic capacity of the region, and preserves Mount Ida’s legacy and history.”
UMass Amherst will now be purchasing all physical assets of Mount Ida College for $75 million, which President Martin Meehan calls “a bargain” while defending the decision on WBUR. The 72-acre Newton campus is fully built with dormitories and classrooms and, according to a UMass Press release, is meant to “establish Greater Boston-based career preparation programs for UMass Amherst students in high-demand fields that serve the Massachusetts innovation economy.”
The campus will be known as the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst and will be operating as an extension of the Amherst campus. The purpose of this campus will be to provide Amherst students with more opportunities for internships and part-time work in the Greater-Boston area. UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy stated: “This is a strategic move that will expand career opportunities for our students and help drive the Massachusetts economy while strengthening the flagship campus’ position in the competitive national higher education marketplace.”
An estimated 1,450 students currently attend Mount Ida. Student in good academic academic standing have been offered automatic acceptance to UMass Dartmouth, a UMass located over 50 miles away, for the fall 2018 semester. The Mount Ida Board of Trustees stated that under what is now being called the “UMassD Guarantee,” Mount Ida students will be guaranteed “same or lower student charges” and will “receive expedited admissions at UMass Dartmouth, housing options that will include Mount Ida living/learning communities, personalized academic advising, interviews for student athletes with UMass Dartmouth Division 3 NCAA coaches, and other services to ensure a seamless transition to the university.”
Many have found this news troubling, first and foremost being the current and incoming Mount Ida students whose chosen programs are not offered by the UMass system. Mount Ida College offered many unique programs such as veterinary technician, dental hygiene, and funeral services that the UMass System does not offer. With the students being offered admission to UMass Dartmouth, the current 280 Mount Ida employee are expected to be without jobs by the end of the academic year.
Mount Ida student Lacey Perry shared her thoughts on a WBUR interview. "I have emailed a few schools wondering if I could possibly transfer and get in and I’ve already gotten three no’s from colleges," said Perry. "Telling me that they’re already full for next year and it’s too late."
This deal has also sparked outrage throughout the UMass Boston community, which has resulted in immense pushback. On April 9, Undergraduate Student Government President Katie Mitrano released a statement on behalf of the Undergraduate Student Body expressing the outrage of students toward the Board of Trustees’ decision.
“It is disheartening that UMass Boston students have been forced to bear the burden of a budget deficit caused by administrative decisions approved by the Board of Trustees with no financial assistance from the President’s Office, the Board, or any other UMass campus… By doing this the University System is directly cutting into UMass Boston’s market share, creating even more competition for students, donors, internships, and job opportunities in Boston’s already aggressive higher education landscape,” President Mitrano writes in the statement.
When asked in an interview what solution she would offer to President Meehan and the Board of Trustees, President Mitrano stated: “I don’t think UMass Amherst should be having two campuses I don’t think it’s fair to any UMass campus. I don’t think any single location should obtain [the Mount Ida campus]. I think it should be a system campus and all UMass students [should] have [the] opportunity to be there.”
President Mitrano, Graduate Student Body President Vaibhav Sabharwal, and former Student Trustee Pantea Fatemi Ardestani stated in a letter to Governor Charlie Baker: “It is our preference to be one unified system not a divisive one. We hope that we can prevent future 'devastation' within the educational system, and to work together to find ways our neighbor, Mount Ida College, can continue their mission in the manner that benefits their community best.”
Many state leaders have also spoken out about this issue. Attorney General Maura Healey has stated that her office will be “looking into” the acquisition and what impact it will have on students. Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester) also stated in an interview with The Boston Herald: “We in the Massachusetts Senate feel as though we do not have enough information on this hasty acquisition.” The senate has announced that they will be holding a hearing on the acquisition. Governor Charlie Baker joined in stating that he was “stunned, shocked, amazed, and really disappointed by the current state of play at Mount Ida.”
UMass President Marty Meehan assures the system in a press release: “This agreement is consistent with the mission and strategic plans of UMass Dartmouth, UMass Amherst and the University of Massachusetts as a system, but most importantly, I am pleased that we are able to offer Mount Ida an opportunity to preserve a pathway to degree completion for its students.”
Despite the assurances from President Meehan, some members of the UMass Boston community have their doubts.
In response, President Mitrano said, “With a new residence hall, a new chancellor, construction coming to a close, and a budget that is nearly balanced, I sincerely believe that UMass Amherst, the Board of Trustees, and President Meehan are afraid of the potential of UMass Boston to become the next ‘Flagship Campus.’”
“I think with that support [of state officials], it shows to the Board of Higher Education that there are more people than just the UMass Boston community that are not comfortable with this deal and I think that speaks volume. We’ve gotten a lot of backing from this and it just shows the Board of Higher Education that they can’t let this happen,” President Mitrano added.