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April 05, 2018

Governor Charlie Baker has confirmed that the University of Massachusetts is in talks with Mount Ida College following reports that UMass may be interested in acquiring the Newton school.

In February, Mount Ida began merger talks with Lasell College, another small, struggling private college in Newton. But those talks were unsuccesful. Now, UMass is interested in Mount Ida.

Governor Charlie Baker says UMass President Marty Meehan told him last week that the two institutions are having conversations.

"I don't know anything about the details," Baker said. "If there is something that's going on there that will actually move forward, I think it's just going to be important for us all to understand what it means for the students of Mount Ida as well as the students at UMass."

Mount Ida, which enrolls about 1,500 students on its 72-acre campus in Newton, is struggling financially. The college's most recent financial reports show consecutive years of operating deficits while endowment income has plummeted.  

Both UMass and Mount Ida have declined comment, but such an acquisition wouldn't be unprecedented. UMass acquired a private college in 2010 to create the University of Massachusetts School of Law. It is unclear how UMass would benefit from a possible acquisition of Mount Ida.

The state's Board of Higher Education would have to approve a merger, acquisition or establishment of a satellite campus.

The talks come as small private colleges are struggling to survive in a competitive marketplace. Many lesser-known schools face serious financial and demographic challenges: rising costs, steep tuition discounts, meager endowments and declining numbers of high school graduates.

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