Bay State College loses appeal, will be stripped of accreditation this summer
After months of uncertainty at Bay State College concerning its finances and accreditation, an unhappy ending has come into view.
In January, a panel assembled by the New England Commission of Higher Education, or NECHE, announced it would withdraw accreditation from the for-profit institution on Aug. 31.
On Monday, the commission denied an appeal by college leadership, effectively paving the way for the closure of the 77-year-old Back Bay college.
In a statement Monday, NECHE’s president, Lawrence Schall, reiterated the findings from the initial accreditation decision in January: namely, that Bay State lacked “sufficient… resources and capacity to support its mission.”
Schall added that the Aug. 31 deadline was set “to allow as many current students as possible to complete their degree without interruption.”
In recent years, the school has enrolled roughly 300 to 400 students. They are predominantly older than typical college-going age, who have been drawn to career-oriented bachelor- and associate-degree programs in areas including nursing, criminal justice and fashion merchandising.
The failure of the college’s appeal surprised few on campus: such appeals are difficult to win and a recent eviction warning dramatized the college’s ongoing financial trouble.
Nevertheless, college leadership said in a statement Monday it was “deeply disappointed” by the decision regarding the appeal.
College leaders allege that accreditors acted precipitously and ignored promising signs that signaled a turnaround, such as climbing enrollment and new funding from Ambow Education, the Chinese company that has owned the school since 2017.
The statement added that NECHE’s decision will “upset the lives of hundreds of students who have found success at Bay State College.”
Some of those students had challenged the accreditation decisions in letters to NECHE. Lindsey Sheehan, a first-year student in nursing, asked NECHE to allow the college to remain open and accredited for one more year, giving herself and her cohort time to graduate.
Sheehan, a Marine Corps veteran and reservist, said in an interview that Bay State gave her "a sense of belonging — it felt like a safe place.”
When the initial accreditation decision was announced in January, Sheehan said it felt like “everything [was] ripped out from underneath us... It's like, what do I do now?"
By August, students like Sheehan who are not graduating but still enrolled at Bay State will have to transfer to another accredited institution.
As of the fall of 2021, the college had 346 students — down from roughly 1,200, or 71% fewer students, in 2011, as the college increasingly failed to enroll first-time undergraduates or older students.
Outright withdrawals of accreditation are relatively rare in New England. In April 2020, NECHE issued a warning to Pine Manor College in Brookline about its accreditation, setting up its merger with Boston College the following month.