The University of Massachusetts has reached a preliminary agreement to acquire Mount Ida College, enabling the university system to establish a major presence in Newton, about ten miles from downtown Boston.
Under the newly announced deal, UMass Amherst will acquire the 74-acre Newton campus and use it to host Greater-Boston career preparation programs for UMass Amherst students as soon as this fall.
The campus will be known as the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst. It will house undergraduates, though it will not enroll them directly. The university will acquire 24 buildings and 820 residential beds. An enrollment increase of 1,000 undergraduate “full-time equivalents” is projected in Amherst.
Mount Ida’s closure plan and UMass Amherst’s plan to open operations in Newton are subject to state Board of Higher Education approval, a board official said.
With about 1,450 undergraduates, Mount Ida is small compared to UMass, which enrolls more than 74,000 students across its five-university system.
Mount Ida students in good standing will be offered automatic admission to UMass Dartmouth with a clear path to degree completion, Mount Ida and UMass said in a joint statement, and UMass Dartmouth will also facilitate expedited transfer admission opportunities at the Boston, Lowell and Amherst campuses.
“I think it’s just going to be important for us to all understand what it means for the students, the students at Mount Ida as well as the students at UMass,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday. The governor spoke with UMass President Marty Meehan briefly about the Mount Ida talks earlier in the week.
Mount Ida, which was established in 1899, previously explored a merger with similar-sized Lasell College, which fell through.
“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 preserves Mount Ida’s legacy and history,” Mount Ida President Barry Brown said in a statement.
UMass Dartmouth, which has some 7,000 undergrads, has the space to accommodate the 1,450 Mount Ida students and ensure “a smooth transition and clear degree pathways,” the university said. UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert Johnson billed the transition as a price discount on the private school experience.
“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 in a statement. “I want to assure Mount Ida students and their families that our students, faculty and staff stand ready with open arms to welcome them to our 710-acre, coastal academic community and provide a pathway to a Tier 1 national research university degree at the same or lower cost than they had planned.”
“Boston-area career preparation”
UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy cheered the deal, which he called a “strategic move.” In an email to students, he said the university will grow a “much-needed” talent pipeline for Massachusetts businesses, especially in STEM fields. UMass Amherst hopes to have a presence on the Mount Ida campus this fall, and expects the programs will be “in full swing” within the next four to five years.
“This acquisition will strengthen our flagship campus in a very competitive national higher education marketplace. For our students, it will enhance internship, co-op and experiential learning opportunities,” Subbaswamy said.
“It will serve as a center for Boston-area career preparation opportunities, utilizing its proximity to the nearby Newton-Needham Innovation District and the tech-focused Route 128 corridor,” Subbaswamy said. The deal will not have an impact on tuition, he added.
Earlier in the day, the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees met before a standing-room only crowd in Amherst.
At the meeting the trustees discussed a previously-approved $55 million project to renovate the UMass Amherst Student Union and a $133.9 million housing and dining building that’s been given the go-ahead at UMass Dartmouth.
Trustees were quiet about talks to acquire the small private school, meeting for a little more than an hour in the Old Chapel at UMass Amherst before going into a closed-door meeting at 10:15 a.m. The Mount Ida deal was announced shortly before 1 p.m. in an email.
UMass spokesman Jeff Cournoyer said it’s too soon to tell whether UMass will raise tuition and fees this year, since the House and Senate fiscal 2019 budgets are still being developed. The House Ways and Means Committee plans to offer its annual budget bill next week.
The university system increased tuition by 3 percent for undergraduates last year, meaning the average in-state student paid $14,253 in tuition and fees. The previous year, UMass raised tuition by 5.8 percent. Tuition also went up in 2015 when trustees voted to break a two-year tuition freeze. Tuition and fees for the coming academic year are typically announced in June or July.
Trustee Michael O’Brien was unanimously appointed to the Board of Higher Education. O’Brien will replace Trustee Henry Thomas, who is leading the UMass Boston chancellor search. Thomas will resign at the end of June.