Before its sudden April 6 announcement that it would be sold to UMass Amherst, Mount Ida College illegally provided sensitive student information to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, according to a new federal lawsuit against the closed institution and its former overseers.
Higher education philanthropist Bob Hildreth is funding the lawsuit, which alleges fraud, negligent representation and violations of the Massachusetts Right of Privacy Act and the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
The suit is seeking $40 million.
"The sudden closure of Mount Ida deprived enrolled and prospective students of their ability to meaningfully consider alternate schools, and Mount Ida knew this," according to the lawsuit. "It was exactly when the students were most vulnerable when Mount Ida released its students’ private information to UMass Dartmouth, allowing UMass Dartmouth to approach each individual student armed with knowledge of their specific finances, grades, awards, and majors. In effect, Mount Ida sold its students, at a discount, to UMass Dartmouth, as an incentive in the land transaction."
One of the plaintiffs, Madeline McClain of New Jersey, said she was accepted to six different colleges but chose Mount Ida because of its veterinary curriculum and its offer of a "near 100 percent tuition-free education." She learned on April 5 that Admitted Students Day had been cancelled and soon found out the school was closing.
"I had nowhere to go because most of the schools I was accepted to had either closed our their acceptances or had little to no money to award any financial aid," she said in a statement on Monday morning.
In a statement, Mount Ida and its Board of Trustees said:
The allegations by three former students, which rely upon incorrect information published erroneously in old media stories and statements twisted out of context, are meritless and will be vigorously defended by the College, its former officers, and its trustees, all of whom worked compassionately and tirelessly to provide realistic transition opportunities for all students following the College’s closure, and fully cooperated with the Attorney General’s investigation.
With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom
Disclosure: Bob Hildreth is a member of the WBUR Board of Overseers and a key financial contributor to WBUR’s Edify unit.
This article was originally published on November 26, 2018.