When Boston University announced its plans to merge with a small university in the fall, students at BU were upset and voiced their frustrations on the school-wide Facebook page. Wheelock College was a school many students were unfamiliar with, and did not want to be affiliated with.
But what many did not know or fully understand was that Wheelock was in a financially dire situation, and BU had an opportunity to acquire land and help students from the school complete their degrees.
Many small schools in Massachusetts are struggling to keep their institutions afloat, and such is the case with Mount Ida College, which will be shutting down this fall.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst aims to purchase the struggling private university, intending to use its residence facilities for students that have internships over the summer. UMass Dartmouth intends to open its doors to Mount Ida students, who can no longer study at the university they are enrolled in.
Unlike its public counterparts in the state, Mount Ida is a private university that offers many specialized programs, including a funeral services degree that can’t be found at UMass Dartmouth. Students are now scrambling to find schools that offer an equivalent degree program, receiving offers from schools as far as New York and the Cape.
And while the trend of small colleges failing to attract enough students is devastating for business, it’s most devastating to students. Mount Ida students were essentially blindsided by the news that they would not be able to finish their degrees, which could potentially hurt their career aspirations, and ultimately, their futures.
Even if the BU and Wheelock merger was not ideal, students were not as affected as they are from the Mount Ida situation. Officials from both BU and Wheelock tried their best in communicating to students what was going on and informed them how they’d be affected. Being transparent to students about their future is important for not only students, but also to parents.
The most unfortunate part about the situation is the financial burden it places on students and their families. If several students end up switching schools, their credits may not transfer, and they will either have to pay out of pocket or wind up in more debt to finish their education. This is entirely unfair to Mount Ida parents, who sent their children to a more expensive university so they could receive a quality degree. UMass Dartmouth does not hold the same standing as Mount Ida, and now students are not even sure if they can continue this education without taking a gap year if they can’t find somewhere to enroll soon.
Just like any other college students, students at Mount Ida probably love their school and enjoy what it has to offer, beyond its academics. Many of them must have attended the school for its smaller campus size and community-feel. It may also be close to many students’ homes, and they might have attended the school so they could be closer to their families.
UMass Dartmouth is in stark contrast to that, boasting a student population of more than 8,500, and is nowhere near Newton. These students deserve better for wanting to pursue higher education and are instead are being forced to make some difficult decisions.
Something is to be said about what sort of financial situation Mount Ida was in when they agreed to this deal. While we don’t know the extent to which Mount Ida was struggling, it must have been a pretty dire situation for it to accept a deal so hastily and without regard for its students.
The university should have done more to notify students of the situation or looked at other options to ensure its financial stability. It was probably aware of how this could affect students, but still opted for a deal that hurts them. The school needed a better plan — and it could have made one sooner that wasn’t so chaotic.
But now is not the time for finger-pointing. Many other universities seem to stepping up to the the plate to help these students more than Mount Ida itself. Regardless of what this means for smaller, private universities, students are being affected in the process and we can’t prevent our youth from pursuing an education.