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Newbury College Announces Plan To Shut Down

NewburyCollegeBrookline.jpg
Newbury College in Brookline.
Magicpiano/Wikimedia Commons

Citing severe financial constraints, Newbury College in Brookline announced Friday it will shut down at the end of the academic year.

In a statement, Newbury President Joseph Chillo said it was in the best interest of students, faculty, staff and prospective students to inform them of the plans to close. He also pointed out that the school made the announcement before it was legally required to.

"It is no secret that weighty financial challenges are pressing on liberal arts colleges throughout the country. Newbury College is no exception," Chillo wrote. "These financial challenges, the product of major changes in demographics and costs, are the driving factors behind our decision to close at the end of this academic year. The decision was not arrived at lightly, because we know how much Newbury College means to so many. Our decision to close comes only after a tireless pursuit of multiple options to remain open and continue serving our students as a beacon of opportunity and hope to achieve the dreams of a college education."

Founded in 1962, Newbury has seen a steady and dramatic drop in students through the years. In 1996, more than 5,300 students were enrolled at Newbury. Today, only 635 are currently enrolled.

The college says it's working with other schools so that students can continue their studies elsewhere.

Earlier this year, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, New England's regional accreditor, put Newbury on probation after the school failed to meet a "standard of institutional resources."

This is the second Massachusetts college this year to announce that it is closing. In May, Mount Ida College in Newton abruptly shut down, leaving hundreds of students in limbo.

That closure drew the ire of students, parents and the state government. Three former students sued Mount Ida's trustees and former leaders for fraud. After the closure, Governor Charlie Baker proposed legislation that would require colleges to disclose their plans to shutter.

After the Mount Ida shutdown, Newbury College said it would grant full credit to students who wished to transfer.

Late last year, Wheelock College announced it would merge with Boston University.

These moves come as enrollment in higher education continues to drop, and there is a decreasing number of high school graduates.

Rich Doherty, executive director of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, says he wasn't surprised by Newbury's decision to close.

"They are an institution that I think has had financial troubles for some time," he said. "They've always been very tuition dependent, so I think that finally caught up with them."

Doherty said small colleges — to stay viable — should expand their recruitment efforts across the country and across generations.

"I still think there's a huge unmet need with the adult learners in Massachusetts that have some college, but no degree."

For the second year in a row, Moody's Investors Service has given the higher ed industry a negative credit outlook, predicting operating expenses will outpace revenue growth at most colleges and more schools will merge or close.

This article has been updated. WGBH News' Esteban Bustillos contributed to this report.

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