UMass Amherst to acquire Mount Ida College’s campus

  • Holbrook Hall at Mount Ida College in Newton. The University of Massachusetts Amherst will acquire the college’s campus after entering into an agreement with Mount Ida. Creative Commons/John Phelan

Staff Writer
Sunday, April 15, 2018

AMHERST — Mount Ida College’s Newton campus is being acquired by the University of Massachusetts Amherst to become the future location of programs that will prepare students for science and technology careers.

The 74-acre Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst, as it will be known, will operate as an extension of the Amherst campus, but will not enroll undergraduate students directly. Instead, being located just 10 minutes from Boston, the campus will be a site for experiential learning, preparing students to work with tech companies and in research laboratories.

The deal was announced after UMass and Mount Ida reached a definitive agreement in principle April 6.

UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in a statement that the Mount Ida campus’ ideal location, adjacent to the Newton-Needham Innovation District and the Route 128 tech corridor, will help the university grow a talent pipeline for Massachusetts businesses and industries, especially in high-demand Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields, and will keep the state at the forefront of innovation and discovery.

“This is a strategic move that will expand career opportunities for our students and help drive the Massachusetts economy while strengthening the flagship campus’ position in the competitive national higher education marketplace,” Subbaswamy said.

Last year, UMass Amherst awarded 1,700 undergraduate STEM degrees. Academic-industry collaborations, which are a growing segment of UMass Amherst’s $220 million annual research and development expenditures, will be initiated at the Mount Ida campus.

Programming the campus

UMass Amherst is assuming Mount Ida’s debt and certain liabilities that are equal to the fair-market value of that campus, said spokesman Ed Blaguszewski, though the exact amount of this value wasn’t immediately available. But Blaguszewski said the university believes this is a wise investment, with 24 buildings that will be put to use as dormitories and classrooms.

“We believe it’s a good deal in terms of the transaction,” Blaguszewski said. “We are optimistic and enthusiastic about the initial business plan that will benefit our students and the economy of Massachusetts, and strengthen us as an institution.”

Blaguszewski said the expectation is most students will spend at three years in Amherst before relocating to the Mount Ida campus, where they could intern with a tech company or join a research laboratory.

“This is really an opportunity for our students to benefit from being in the Greater Boston area and to make a contribution to the knowledge economy in the state,” Blaguszewski said.

The programs that will be offered in Newton will include health care, business, computer science and other STEM specialties. Some will be hybrids that combines coursework in Mount Ida classrooms, lab work in Amherst and online education.

“We expect to have an initial presence there this fall,” Blaguszewski said.

With 820 beds on the Mount Ida campus, Blaguszewski said UMass can expand undergraduate enrollment in Amherst, which stood at 23,338 last fall, by about 1,000 full-time equivalents. This will help cover some of the costs of acquiring the campus.

There will also be professional and graduate certificate programs, as well as lifelong learning programs, offered in Newton.

Mount Ida students

As part of the agreement, Mount Ida seniors will graduate this spring and its students in good standing will be automatically enrolled at UMass Dartmouth, with opportunities to transfer to the Amherst, Lowell and Boston campuses. Mount Ida has about 1,450 undergraduates.

Mount Ida President Barry Brown said in a statement that the challenges for small colleges in the current economic and demographic landscape are significant.

“Working with UMass, we have devised a way forward that ensures the well being of our students, enhances the academic capacity of the region, and preserve’s Mount Ida’s legacy and history,” Brown said.

Prior to the agreement with UMass, the college had been examining a possible merger with Lasell College, according to the press release.

UMass President Marty Meehan said in a statement it is appropriate that Mount Ida students will continue to have a pathway to degrees. “This agreement is consistent with the mission and strategic plans of UMass Dartmouth, UMass Amherst and the University of Massachusetts as a system,” Meehan said.

“We’re proud that UMass was able to offer a solution that benefits Mount Ida students and creates opportunity for UMass students,” said UMass Board of Trustees Chair Rob Manning in a statement.