We’re used to hearing these kinds of stories about for-profit colleges that take money from vulnerable students and make big, empty promises about lucrative new careers. But what happened at this small liberal arts college isn’t so different from what a DeVry or Trump University would do: Mount Ida made promises to incoming freshmen like Madeline that officials there knew, or should have known, they very likely couldn’t keep.
How the heck did this happen? Where was Mount Ida’s Board of Trustees in all of this? They’re supposed to ensure college officials make sound decisions, and yet somehow, the school crashed into a financial wall and consented to a distress sale. No way should they have let this drag on until it was too late for faculty to find other jobs for September and for many students to find other suitable schools.
Why doesn’t the state’s Board of Higher Education — which found out about the school’s woes in the newspaper, for heaven’s sake — have the power and resources to keep a closer eye on small private colleges? The Legislature must give the board ways to look behind the sunny talk from presidents like Mount Ida’s Barry Brown.
And how is it that UMass, which has just scored a sweet deal, still isn’t bending over backward to offer stranded students clear and practical ways to complete studies they began at their ailing school in Newton?
It’s time for everybody to step up here. Small colleges are increasingly vulnerable to closure as the population of 18-year-olds shrinks. This could keep happening.
Madeline McClain is going to be OK. Her second-choice school renewed its offer. But there will be no vet tech studies there, and she’ll pay $11,000 more. Still, she and her mother consider themselves lucky, compared to families whose kids have nowhere else to go or no way to pay for it.
The 18-year-old has had a schooling in cynicism no one her age should endure.