What the closure of small colleges like Mount Ida and Newbury College means for the city’s education system.
By Michael Damiano, 1/29/2019
Just after noon on April 6, the cafeteria at Mount Ida College in Newton was buzzing with hundreds of students sitting down for lunch. Suddenly, a chorus of phone pings began to sound throughout the hall. Mount Ida president Barry Brown had just sent mass emails to all students and staff. “Important Announcement,” the subject line read. As students tapped the notification on their phones, an eerie hush settled over the room while they read the message in unison. The email’s language was vague, but several lines leapt off the phone screens as if in 3-D.
“…the financial pressure on small colleges has never been greater…”
“…our limited resources obligate us…”
“…Mount Ida will end its role as an independent college…”
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen believes that within a decade, around 30 to 50 percent of private colleges will close or merge with another school. Higher ed consultant Michael Horn, who founded a think tank with Christensen in 2007, is slightly more optimistic—but his prognosis is still scary. “I don’t think it’s going to be 100 institutions disappearing in a year,” he told me. “It will be 20 going under each year for 15 years, and then you look back and say, ‘Whoa, a quarter of the institutions are gone.’”