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Baker Proposes Legislation Requiring Colleges To Disclose Plans To Shut Down

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Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, right, delivers his inaugural speech after taking the oath of office, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, in the House Chamber of the Statehouse, in Boston.
Steven Senne/AP

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is proposing legislation that would require colleges disclose their plans to shut down.

This new legislation, which the governor included in a larger spending bill, would require struggling colleges to develop a contingency plan, submit it to the state and share it with students and applicants.

In April, Mount Ida College in Newton closed and was acquired by UMass Amherst. The abrupt closure left hundreds of students scrambling to find another school.

Even though state law requires closing schools to notify the Department of Higher Education, Mount Ida did not.

Now Baker wants to require struggling colleges to develop a contingency plan and notify applicants.

Massachusetts Education Secretary Jim Peyser supports the new consumer protections.

"The existing law is written a little bit awkwardly, and it basically says that when you are closing, then you provide a closure plan," Peyser said. "In some cases it's a sort of an after-the-fact, which doesn't help very much. So the change is to give us a little bit more runway."

Peyser said no other state has a similar law.

"The change is designed to give us a little bit more runway so that when there are known liabilities and risks that could lead to imminent closure, ... that's the point at which a college comes forward and notifies the Board of Higher Ed and develops a closure plan," he said.

Private colleges worry disclosing their financial challenges would guarantee their demise.

Attorney General Maura Healey, the state Board of Higher Education and a report by the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight have made similar proposals to Baker's.

The plan would apply to both public and private schools.

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