Newbury College In Brookline Will Close After A Final Spring Semester

Download Audio
A building at Newbury College in Brookline. (Courtesy Newbury College via Facebook)
A building at Newbury College in Brookline, which is set to close this Spring. (Courtesy Newbury College via Facebook)

Newbury College, in Brookline, is closing at the end of the academic year.

It's the second Boston-area college to announce its closure this year.

Newbury blames demographics and severe financial constraints in higher education. The school currently has 625 students.

The number of high school graduates has been declining, and for several years now, so has college enrollment. This has made some small colleges vulnerable.

State Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives said there must be greater scrutiny of college administrations and boards.

"There is overspending," O'Connor Ives said. "There is over-acceptance of students, the issuance of the types of scholarships and discounts to entice students to come."

O'Connor Ives said more pressure must be put on college auditors, too.

"The auditing organizations need to have more concrete steps once they discover that the financials are in the red," O'Connor Ives said .

Like Mount Ida College, which closed in May, Newbury offers generous financial aid to almost all its students.

"They give financial aid to over 90 percent of the students," said Nick Ducoff, co-founder of Edmit, a Boston startup that helps parents negotiate financial aid with colleges. "And the average award is close to $20,000."

That's more than half tuition and fees of $36,000. The college has only has a $2 million endowment.

Unlike Mount Ida, Newbury has been talking to staff at the Department of Higher Education since July. That earned it praise from Attorney General Maura Healey and from Gov. Charlie Baker.

"They are trying, I believe, in good faith, to make this announcement early enough that both existing students and prospective students have options and possibilities with the decisions they make and give faculty and staff time to plan as well," Baker said.

But staff, faculty, students and parents only found out Friday.

As recently as Thanksgiving, the college told Holly Orff's daughter that she would be getting a $92,000 scholarship over the next four years.

"I've never seen her so happy," Orff said.

Orff and her family live in Franklin. She works at the Big Y supermarket, her husband at Target.

She says they thought with the financial aid, maybe they could send their daughter to college.

But then Orff found out from a friend that the college is closing. She had to tell her daughter.

"And she was like, 'OK,' " Orff said. "When she gets real quiet, you can tell she's upset. And she just walked out. They must have known back a month ago that they weren't going to be in business. You don't offer somebody that much of a scholarship if you don't have any money."

Students still have one more semester.

In a statement on the college's website, Newbury's president says he's still exploring potential partnerships that would allow the college to remain open. But he says he and the trustees concluded that it's in the best interest of students to notify them now of the college's intent to close after the next semester.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect surname for Holly Orff. We regret the error. 

This article was originally published on December 14, 2018.

This segment aired on December 14, 2018.


Headshot of Fred Thys

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



More from WBUR

Listen Live