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UMass president defends purchase of Mount Ida College

UMass President Marty Meehan
UMass President Marty MeehanJessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File

After days of scrutiny and criticism from students and faculty at both institutions — as well as legislators, the attorney general, and the governor — the president of the UMass system on Thursday defended its decision to acquire struggling Mount Ida College in Newton.

Marty Meehan said in a statement that the University of Massachusetts “had no role in Mount Ida’s closing” and was not chosen by Mount Ida’s administration over a previously proposed deal to merge with Lasell College, another small school in Newton.

Mount Ida approached UMass in late March, after merger talks with Lasell fell through and it was clear that Mount Ida would close after the current semester, Meehan said. The college then resumed a discussion with UMass that had begun months earlier but was paused when Mount Ida’s negotiations with Lasell began.

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With Mount Ida’s students in mind, he said, its administrators sought an opportunity for them to complete their degrees and graduate.

UMass agreed to “provide Mount Ida students with automatic admission to UMass Dartmouth and expedited transfer applications to other UMass campuses,” Meehan said.

“While this is not a perfect solution for Mount Ida’s students, who are faced with a difficult transition through no fault of their own, we have worked hard to provide a clear path to degree completion for most Mount Ida students,” he said.

Meehan insisted that the purchase of Mount Ida’s campus for use by UMass Amherst has no financial impact on financially struggling UMass Boston, where students and professors have been infuriated by the purchase of a nearby property for the system’s flagship campus in Western Massachusetts.

“UMass Amherst will borrow to acquire Mount Ida’s physical assets and offset that borrowing with revenue supported by its growth,” Meehan said. “There are no state appropriated funds involved in this transaction.”

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Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.