Mt. Ida College to Close, UMass to Take Over Campus

Mount Ida College, a small liberal arts school that traces its roots back more than a century, will close at the end of the current semester and its assets will be purchased by the University of Massachusetts, officials of both institutions announced Friday.

Under the agreement, undergraduate students in good standing at Mount Ida would be offered automatic admission to the Dartmouth campus of the University of Massachusetts so they can complete their degrees.

UMass will take over the 74-acre Mount Ida campus in Newton and use it for "career preparation programs," in science and technology fields that are in high demand in the greater Boston area, the university said.

Recent merger talks between Mount Ida and nearby Lasell College ended without an agreement, likely striking the final blow to Mount Ida as a viable private institution.

"The challenges for small colleges in the current economic and demographic landscape are significant," said Barry Brown, the school's president, in a statement. "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 preserve's Mount Ida's legacy and history."

A message on Mount Ida's website says most majors will be offered at UMass, but not veterinary technology, dental hygiene, funeral services education or interior design. It said the school is looking for other "pathways" for those students but didn't provide details.

Freshman veterinary technology student Danielle Marston said she doesn't know what she'll do. She could transfer to a community college or a certificate program offered at a high school, but neither offers a bachelor's degree like the one she was pursuing.

"It makes me feel like I'm in a bind, like I'm stuck in a rut," the 20-year-old from South Weymouth said. "We were all just devastated because it was a big slap in the face."

Mount Ida's website says faculty and staff can work through the semester and will be notified about "next steps" as soon as possible. Marston said some of her professors were already told they would lose their jobs.

The institution began as a finishing school for women in 1899. It was accredited as a junior college in 1961 and began offering four-year bachelor degrees in 1990.

The school currently has about 1,450 undergraduate students. Seniors will graduate as scheduled in the spring.

Those who wish to transfer to UMass-Dartmouth, about 60 miles south of Newton, will be offered the in-state tuition rate of no more than $13,500, considerably below the roughly $35,000 tuition at Mount Ida. The students also would be guaranteed access housing and the opportunity to room with former classmates.

"We are fully prepared to offer Mount Ida students the private college educational experience they are accustomed to at a public university value," said UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert Johnson.

UMass will absorb and seek to restructure Mount Ida's debt, estimated at between $55 million and $70 million, and assume "certain liabilities" under the agreement, university officials said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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