Three former students at Mount Ida College, which closed abruptly in May and sold its Newton campus to University of Massachusetts Amherst, are suing the shuttered school's former leaders and trustees for fraud.
The federal lawsuit, which is funded by philanthropist Bob Hildreth, alleges Mount Ida violated students' privacy and committed fraud. The students, who are seeking class action status, accuse Mount Ida administrators of concealing the school's perilous financial condition and illegally providing UMass Amherst with sensitive student data in the run-up to the sale of the campus.
Attorney Michael Tauer, who represents the three students, said Mount Ida knew for years that it was in an increasingly difficult financial position.
"Rather than being upfront with its students and letting them know so they could evaluate whether it was the best fit for them or they should consider other options, it appears that Mount Ida hid that information from the students, from the government and from the general public," Tauer said in a phone interview.
The students say Mount Ida's closure was “catastrophic,” causing them to lose scholarships and financial aid while leaving them with academic credits that could not be transferred. They're seeking unspecified damages.
“Words cannot express the feeling of deceit and betrayal I felt when it was announced that my school would be closing,” said Tristan Squeri of Burlington, Mass., one of the three students, in a statement released Monday.
Mount Ida College and its Board of Trustees denied the allegations in a statement emailed to WGBH News on Monday.
“The allegations by three former students, which rely upon incorrect information published erroneously in old media stories and statements twisted out of context, are meritless and will be vigorously defended by the College, its former officers, and its trustees, all of whom worked compassionately and tirelessly to provide realistic transition opportunities for all students following the College’s closure, and fully cooperated with the Attorney General’s investigation,” the statement read.
In July, Governor Charlie Baker's administration proposed legislation that would require colleges to disclose to state regulators their plans to shut down, develop a contingency plan and inform applicants.
Private colleges worry disclosing their financial challenges would lead to drops in enrollment and eventually the demise of some institutions.