UMass Amherst reaches preliminary agreement to acquire Mount Ida College

UM to acquire the 74-acre Newton campus of Mount Ida College

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UMass Amherst reaches preliminary agreement to acquire Mount Ida College

Official Mount Ida College Facebook page

Official Mount Ida College Facebook page

Official Mount Ida College Facebook page

By Kathrine Esten, Assistant News Editor

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The University of Massachusetts has reached a preliminary agreement to acquire the 74-acre Newton campus of Mount Ida College, which is slated to cease operations at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 academic year.

The newly acquired campus will be known as the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst and will operate as an extension of the Amherst campus. It will serve as a center for Boston-area career preparation opportunities, which will utilize the campus’s proximity to the nearby Newton-Needham Innovation District and the tech-focused Route 128 corridor.

“This acquisition will strengthen our flagship campus in a very competitive national higher education marketplace,” UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in an email to the UMass community Friday. “[This] will create outstanding new experiential learning opportunities for our students and will foster exceptional new academic and research collaborations for our faculty in the Commonwealth.”

Subbaswamy highlighted the Newton campus’s ideal location for enhancing “internship, co-op and experiential learning opportunities.” It will also grow a “much-needed talent pipeline” for Massachusetts businesses, especially in STEM fields.

Amherst students could live on the Mount Ida campus while completing yearlong internships in the Boston area, according to UMass. The facility would also enable academic collaborations with companies or other universities in Greater Boston.

The Newton campus consists of 24 buildings containing 820 residential beds, classrooms, laboratories and dining and recreation facilities. The extra space will allow UMass Amherst to accept a projected 1,000 additional undergraduate students.

The initial business plan for the new campus includes offering graduate, continuing and professional education programs in a wide range of disciplines.

“We’re proud that UMass was able to offer a solution that benefits Mount Ida students and creates opportunity for UMass students,” said UMass Board of Trustees chair Robert Manning.

“The acquisition will not impact our anticipated capital and programmatic initiatives on the Amherst campus, and it will have no effect on our tuition,” Subbaswamy included in his statement.

“We hope to establish an initial presence on the Newton campus by fall 2018 and to be in full swing within four to five years,” the chancellor added. “I look forward to working with many of you to pursue this wide range of opportunities that will greatly benefit our students and extend our ability to fulfill our mission as the Commonwealth’s flagship campus.”

The Mount Ida campus will not enroll students directly; as part of the agreement, Mount Ida students in good standing will be offered automatic admission to UMass Dartmouth.

Under a “UMassD Guarantee,” all Mount Ida students will receive lower tuition charges and incur less debt. Mount Ida students will also receive expedited admissions to UMass Dartmouth with a path to degree completion, on-campus housing options at standard room and board rates, Mount Ida living/learning communities, personalized academic advising, interviews for student-athletes with UMass Dartmouth’s NCAA Division III coaches, and other services to assure a seamless transition to the university.  UMass Dartmouth will facilitate expedited transfer admission opportunities at the Boston, Lowell and Amherst campuses for Mount Ida students.

In a joint press release from the University of Massachusetts, UMass Amherst, UMass Dartmouth and Mount Ida College, Mount Ida president Barry Brown said, “The challenges for small colleges in the current economic and demographic landscape are significant. 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.”

Previously, Mount Ida College had explored a merger with Lasell College, but discussions ceased when the boards of each school could not reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

The Mount Ida College Board of Trustees issued a statement explaining that the transition was the result of long-term financial concerns of the institution, saying they “relentlessly considered many solutions” and ultimately decided that the agreement with UMass would provide their students “with a secure academic future.”

UMass Dartmouth chancellor Robert E. Johnson assured Mount Ida students and families that UMass Dartmouth students, faculty and staff “stand ready with open arms” to welcome them.

“We are fully prepared to offer Mount Ida students the private college educational experience they are accustomed to at a public university value,” Johnson said.

“This agreement is consistent with the mission and strategic plans of UMass Dartmouth, UMass Amherst and the University of Massachusetts as a system,” said UMass president Marty Meehan. “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.”

Both Mount Ida’s closure plan and UMass’ plan to open a satellite campus on the Mount Ida property are subject to approval by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.

“It is not a ‘done deal,’ in other words,” according to Katy Abel, associate commissioner for external affairs at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. “The timeline for the approvals is dictated by the Board, not the campuses.”

Kathrine Esten can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @KathrineEsten.