Mills alumnae ask trustees to keep college open beyond 2023

The entry gate at Mills College's Oakland campus. The 170-year-old women's college announced recently that it will cease all academic programs in 2023. (Photo by rocor/Flickr)

The Alumnae Association of Mills College called on the college’s board of trustees Wednesday to keep the college open beyond 2023.

The Alumnae Association suggested the college take whatever steps necessary to remain open for the foreseeable future, including potentially joining the University of California system or modifying its academic structure.

The college announced last month that it would no longer admit first-year undergraduate students after the fall 2021 semester and would graduate its last class in 2023, before transitioning from a degree-granting college into a Mills Institute.

The college has been located on MacArthur Boulevard since 1871 after starting as a seminary in Benicia and describes itself as a liberal arts college “for women and gender nonbinary students, with graduate programs for all genders.”

College officials cited declining enrollment and budget issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for the transition away from granting degrees.

“We reject the conclusion that the financial challenges Mills faces — although profound and persistent — require the college to be dismantled and transformed into an institute,” the AAMC wrote in a letter to the college’s board of trustees.

After outreach efforts to the college’s alumnae resulted in hundreds of phone calls, emails and social media messages calling for the college to reverse its decision, the AAMC offered a list of demands to the board of trustees.

The demands include greater transparency regarding the college’s financial state, involving the AAMC in governing a Mills Institute and assurance that all current Mills students can graduate regardless of what happens to the college.

To date, the college’s board of trustees has only voted to stop new student admissions after the fall semester. The board is expected to vote on additional transition-related matters on April 15.

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