Mount Ida is being acquired by UMass. (Creative Commons)
Mount Ida College and the University of Massachusetts have that the public university will acquire the small, private school in Newton.
Under the deal, Mount Ida, which had struggled with consecutive years of operating deficits and a dwindling endowment, will shut down and its 1,500 students will be offered automatic admission to UMass Dartmouth. Its 280 faculty and staff members will be laid off.
UMass Amherst will acquire Mount Ida's 74-acre campus in Newton, saying it wants to use it for career preparation programs in high-demand fields.
In a statement, Mount Ida president Barry Brown says 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," Brown said.
UMass President Marty Meehan says the deal will help former Mount Ida students complete their education.
"We are working hard to make sure that students who attend Mount Ida will have a smooth, seamless opportunity to earn their degree," Meehan said in an interview with On Campus.
UMass will also assume Mount Ida's outstanding debt, which Meehan estimates hovers between $55 and $70 million.
The announcement comes as many small, private schools struggle in an increasingly competitive environment. Earlier this year, Mount Ida entered talks with another small, struggling school, Lasell College, about a possible partnership. After announcing a potential merger, both schools called off the deal
Michael Thomas, president of the New England Board of Higher Education, says Mount Ida's closure signals serious challenges facing small colleges.
"I think there's a real possibility that we will see even more mergers and that we may even see an acceleration of the pace," Thomas said. "Perhaps another merger alternative might have provided the possibility for some of those faculty and staff to retain employment."
UPDATE Sunday, April 8, 2018: Students at Mount Ida College are angry that they had no warning before the school announced it will close.
Inside the dining hall, many students don't like the idea of relocating to a larger campus located 70 miles south. Freshman Ethan Sweet from Claremont, New Hampshire, worries UMass-Dartmouth won't offer the same courses as Mount Ida.
"This college is so unique because it has so many different majors, and when people are commuting for those specific majors and then they have to commute an hour further, that's absolutely insane," Sweet said.
Sweet said he and many of his classmates don't want to go to UMass-Dartmouth.
"They have my major but that's just not the kind of college that I personally would want to go to,” Sweet said. “I'm starting to look around a little bit. I've been looking at Regis College because they actually have an environmental sustainability major and not just environmental science, so my credits would transfer a lot easier."
Still, some other students, including sophomore Tanner Holk from Londenderry, New Hampshire, say they are fine with transferring to UMass.
"It's definitely a more renowned school than Mount Ida,” Holk said. “More people know UMass than Mount Ida."
Over the weekend, student leaders met with Mount Ida president Barry Brown but they say few answers were provided.
Over the next week, UMass will hold a series of meetings on campus to help students understand their options.
WGBH News' Esteban Bustillos contributed to this report.