Boston College will soon offer a two-year associate’s degree program and free summer academy through a new institute formed as part of its integration agreement with Pine Manor College.
The Pine Manor Institute for Student Success will aim to connect underrepresented groups, including first-generation, BIPOC, and low-income students, with educational opportunities, BC announced Thursday.
“We cannot afford to have so many students not develop their gifts and address the tough issues facing our society,” said BC President William P. Leahy. “Education is the ladder to success.”
The institute comes from a summer 2020 merger agreement between BC and Pine Manor College, a small liberal arts college in Brookline serving mostly low-income students and students of color. The new institute has $100 million in financing, including a $25 million gift from an anonymous donor and a $50 million initial commitment from BC that’s grown substantially through investment returns.
“We wanted an institution that wanted to accelerate what we wanted to do,” said Thomas O’Reilly, Pine Manor College’s president. “[BC] was willing to buy into the values to do that.”
Pine Manor is among many small colleges across the country that were struggling to stay afloat even before the pandemic. Economic uncertainty spurred by the coronavirus has ushered in more closures and mergers in recent years. As Pine Manor prepares to close in June, it has prepared students to finish classes at Pine Manor, at BC, or at other schools, O’Reilly said.
Nathan Grawe, a professor of economics at Carleton College, said the small colleges that are struggling more than others often serve underrepresented groups.
“The diversity of these institutions is an incredible asset,” Grawe said. “When we lose them, there’s something lost to the broader whole.”
Grawe said the new institute is noteworthy because it will pursue Pine Manor’s mission, and at the same time help BC tap into different student demographics.
“There’s a potential for a win-win,” he said.
O’Reilly said the schools’ alliance should serve as a nationwide model for small colleges in a financial bind.
“For small [nonprofit] colleges who may be unsure about their future, partnering with another institution that can help them advance their real mission — that’s powerful,” he said.
After receiving student nominations from local schools and community leaders, the academy will welcome its first cohort of 40 middle school students in June 2022. Academy participants will have the opportunity to take English, math, and science classes; learn public speaking, time management, college readiness, and standardized testing skills; and take a college-credit course.
Joy Moore, who previously served as BC’s vice president for student affairs and, prior to that, as associate vice president of alumni relations, will serve as the institute’s executive director. Moore was the first in her family to attend college and attended BC with the help of a hefty financial aid package. As an undergraduate, she said, she struggled to use her studying time efficiently “in a very challenging academic environment.” This institute, she said, will prepare them for such rigor.
Yet, Moore said instilling confidence in students to explore their future is one of its most important goals.
“If I had this institute, I would’ve discovered new things and new areas of interest,” Moore added. “I probably would’ve discovered that I was good at some things that I never thought I was good at.”
In addition to its academy and two-year degree program, the institute will be an umbrella organization housing some of BC’s existing programs for underserved students, and provide up to 10 years’ mentorship for academy participants, according to a press release.
William Thomas, head of school at New Mission High School in Hyde Park, said that extended mentorship period, and opportunities designed to reach a broad range of first-gen, BIPOC, and low-income students, will distinguish the institute from many existing college exposure opportunities.
“Creating a college-going culture at such a young age would allow our students to see themselves in a college setting,” Thomas said. “It shows that college isn’t this intangible thing.”
Classes for its associate’s degree program will begin in 2024 at Messina College, BC’s newly named two-year college division. The new college will be located at Pine Manor’s campus.
Katrina Shaw, a member of Pine Manor’s board of trustees whose nonprofit, Freedom House Inc., has partnered with the college to coach students for about six years, said she’s excited to see Pine Manor’s commitment to equity and diversity paired with BC’s vast resources. The merger will also further BC’s social justice mission, she said.
“In years to come, I hope that I will walk on Boston College’s campus and see that it has shifted even more in terms of educational equity for students in a pronounced and visible way.” Shaw said. “I hope that the best of both worlds will exist at this campus.”
Tiana Woodard is a Report for America corps member covering Black neighborhoods. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @tianarochon.