Buying small colleges

  Holbrook Hall at Mount Ida College.

Holbrook Hall at Mount Ida College.

That the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is taking over the campus of tiny and bankrupt Mount Ida College, in Newton, is a sign or the times. The fact is that there are too many small private colleges in a time of a smaller cohort of college-age kids and ever more intense competition for student money. It’s probably tougher in New England than in most of the country because the region has a famed collection of very distinguished and well-endowed private colleges (most famously four of the eight Ivy League institutions and MIT) and generally improving, and expanding, state university systems to lure customers.

So now the flagship of the UMass system will get a physical site in Greater Boston. In the deal, UMass Amherst will assume $55 million to $70 million in debt from Mount Ida and then use the campus, which has dorms, labs, library and sports fields, as a place  from which students can work on internships and engage in academic collaborations with  other Boston-area colleges as well as  with businesses. UMass Amherst  also said that having the campus will boost fundraising by providing a site closer to rich alumni and others in the great wealth-creating machine centered in Boston, Cambridge and along Route 128. Understandably UMass Boston feels dissed.

Watch for more such takeovers of small colleges by larger ones. I’m glad they’ll still be used for education, though that might turn out to be mostly vocational.