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Mount Ida students scramble to find new schools

Struggling Mount Ida College and the University of Massachusetts have struck a formal agreement for students of the small school to complete their degrees at UMass Dartmouth.
Struggling Mount Ida College and the University of Massachusetts have struck a formal agreement for students of the small school to complete their degrees at UMass Dartmouth.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/File

Mount Ida College students hustling to find places to complete their degrees after their school closes next month say they are frustrated by the mixed information they have received about where they can land.

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has offered Mount Ida students in good academic standing the chance to transfer there automatically. But that school does not offer all the specific programs that Mount Ida made available.

Students in the veterinary technology and dental hygiene programs at Mount Ida were told last week that Regis College in Weston would likely take over those programs, students and parents said.

But this week the University of Massachusetts announced it will take them over instead, and continue to operate them on the Mount Ida campus.

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The shuffle is a result of a deal that UMass struck with Mount Ida a week and a half ago. If state regulators approve, Mount Ida will close, UMass Amherst will buy the campus, and UMass Dartmouth will take in many of Mount Ida’s 1,500 students.

But Mount Ida runs programs in funeral services and funeral home management that are unique in the region. Funeral students said they were told last week that Cape Cod Community College would take over that program at its campus in West Barnstable, but this week they learned the program won’t be ready to open this fall after all.

Late Tuesday, a spokesman from Cape Cod Community College told the Globe the school hopes to have the program ready by fall but is at the mercy of regulatory hurdles.

“I have no idea what I’m going to do,” said Lindsay McPhail, a freshman from Bradford, Maine, in the funeral program.

McPhail said a representative from the State University of New York was supposed to visit the college this week to talk about its funeral program, but did not show up because of inclement weather.

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Mount Ida held a college fair on Tuesday, where colleges from Massachusetts and other states talked to students about last-minute transfer options.

Nancy Bennotti, the mother of a second-year student in the dental hygiene program, said the information they received was complex and confusing. Bennotti, of Medfield, said no matter what happens, her daughter will likely have to repeat classes and spend extra money to finish her degree.

“She’s absolutely going to be repeating courses. It’s not going to be an easy transfer anywhere,” she said.

Amid the chaos, parents have created a Facebook group to discuss updates from Mount Ida. On Tuesday one parent wrote, “This gets more confusing every day.”

According to Mount Ida, UMass Dartmouth will oversee the dental hygiene associate degree program and allow students to finish their degrees on the Mount Ida campus with Mount Ida faculty. Students can finish four-year degrees through a combination of in-person and online classes, according to Mount Ida.

As for the vet program, which has 214 students, UMass Amherst is in discussions with the program’s accrediting agency as well as its Mount Ida faculty to take over that program and run it on the Mount Ida campus until students graduate.

It would be overseen by UMass Amherst’s Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, according to the Mount Ida website.

Those students’ general education courses would be earned at UMass online or through another college, the school said.

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Both arrangements, however, are subject to approval from UMass trustees as well as state education officials, who are displeased with Mount Ida because it did not submit the proper forms before it announced its closure. That included paperwork to show how students in every program will be able to finish their degrees elsewhere. State officials have a meeting set for Thursday morning with Mount Ida officials.

UMass Amherst has previously said it plans to use the Mount Ida campus as a home base for its students who complete internships in the Boston area and possibly for executive and online programs.

An official with the state Board of Higher Education said Tuesday that the board did not know about the UMass proposals to take over the vet tech and dental hygiene programs. But the official said it has been encouraging the college to find solutions for students in the specialized programs.

“We have been leaning on Mt. Ida to have better solutions for students in programs that do not exist at UMass Dartmouth,” the official wrote in an e-mail.

Steve Hopkins, the father of a student in the vet tech program, said it has been hard for his daughter to search for a place to finish her degree because she is also in the final weeks of the semester.

His daughter is a junior with about $70,000 in debt so far, he said. Hopkins said he filed forms with the state attorney general to see if his daughter will be eligible for some type of debt relief.

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Hopkins and other parents said they are growing exhausted by a drip-drip-drip of information that changes constantly.

“Does she even have a senior year to go to?” he asked. “We just don’t know.”

Meanwhile, a number of other colleges in New England have offered special admissions accommodations to Mount Ida students. It is up to students to determine whether their credits will transfer to those schools or if they have comparable majors.

Franklin Pierce University, in Rindge, N.H., is also offering 20 full-tuition scholarships to Mount Ida students who enroll at Franklin Pierce as full-time residential students, according to officials at that school.

The university will also offer scholarships to other transfer students from Mount Ida and create a special place in the dorms for Mount Ida students to live together.

Keene State College, 85 miles north of Newton in Keene, N.H., recently announced it would offer on-the-spot admissions decisions for Mount Ida students who visit the campus.

Nearby Lasell College, which had explored a merger with Mount Ida, has agreed to take over the college’s applied forensic science and biology programs. Lasell will offer those students the same financial aid they have at Mount Ida, according to Mount Ida’s website.

Lasell has also invited students in the sports management, graphic design, and fashion programs to transfer into their programs with the same financial aid offer. Students’ grades will transfer because the schools already have a cross-registration agreement in place.

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Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com.