UMass Amherst To Offer New Degree-Granting Programs On Mount Ida Campus

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A car drives past the Mount Ida College sign on Carlson Avenue in Newton. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A car drives past the Mount Ida College sign on Carlson Avenue in Newton. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Amid protests from students and faculty at UMass Boston, the chancellor of UMass Amherst's campus is defending the school's deal to take over the campus of Mount Ida College in Newton.

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy has laid out plans to show how the school hopes to increase revenue and pay for the takeover.

Subbaswamy describes the deal as a way of increasing opportunities for undergraduates from the flagship campus to get internship experiences, but a letter to state legislators last week suggests student housing is just a part of UMass Amherst's plans.

The Mount Ida campus comes with dorm space for 820 students, which means UMass Amherst can add students at its main campus as it sends students to Newton. In his letter to the Legislature, Subbaswamy projects that the UMass Amherst students housed in Newton will most likely be juniors and seniors.

In an email to WBUR, UMass Amherst spokesman Ed Blaguszewski explains the new campus will house new programs. Some, such as executive education, lifelong learning and other short-term programs, will not offer credits, but others will be degree-granting and certificate programs, including business, nursing, computer science and engineering.

Blaguszewski says the students in the degree-granting professional programs are not for students already admitted to UMass Amherst, but would be new programs offered in the Boston metropolitan area.

If new degree-granting programs are started on the Newton campus, the Board of Higher Education would have authority to review those programs.

Attorney General Maura Healey also has oversight of the takeover, in that she must approve of all transfers of charitable assets.

However, in his letter to the Legislature, Subbaswamy said UMass Amherst counsel had been consulting with the attorney general from the outset. In an email to WBUR, however, a spokeswoman for the attorney general said her office was only informed of the deal between UMass Amherst and Mount Ida around the time it was made public and played no role in shaping the agreement.

UMass Amherst will issue bonds to finance the takeover of the Mount Ida campus. In exchange for the campus, UMass Amherst would take over the debt of Mount Ida.

UMass Amherst projects an additional $1.4 million in annual revenue from the Mount Ida campus, in part because it can add more students in Amherst, and in part from the new programs offered in Newton.

The deal does not, on its face, take money away from UMass Boston, nor will any funds from the Newton campus go to UMass Boston. Each campus is expected to put together its own budget, say officials.

At UMass Boston, students and faculty worry that the new programs in Newton would poach from UMass Boston. That concern was underlined at a hearing last week.

Former Northeastern President Richard Freeland, who has also served as higher education commissioner, said he thought the deal would not only cannibalize students from UMass Boston, but also other colleges in the Boston area.

This article was originally published on April 30, 2018.

This segment aired on April 30, 2018.


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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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