Proposed merger with Northeastern University would revive Mills College

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)

Oakland’s Mills College may reverse a decision earlier this year and confer degrees once again if it merges with another university, college officials announced Thursday in a letter to the community.

“I am excited to share that today, Mills will begin formal discussions to combine with Northeastern University,” Mills College President Elizabeth Hillman wrote in the letter.

If the alliance becomes official, students would be able to take classes at Mills College in Oakland and earn a degree with the Mills College name as part of that degree, Hillman said.

Northeastern University is a private, non-profit, research university based in Boston with campuses in Canada, London, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, among other places. It reportedly has about 14,000 undergraduate students.

“A leader in women’s leadership, access, equity, social justice, @MillsCollege has been a pillar of opportunity for more than a century,” Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun said in a tweet Thursday. “We’re thrilled to explore a new chapter with this vibrant community of leaders and doers.”

The alliance may result in the development of new educational programs.

Mills College officials on March 17 announced that the college would stop accepting first-year students after this fall, and likely confer degrees for the last time in 2023, pending action by the college’s board. The board has now authorized the discussions between Mills and Northeastern, Hillman’s letter says.

Aoun said in Hillman’s letter that the two institutions can “create new and distinctive opportunities.”

If the two institutions agree, Mills College would become Mills College at Northeastern University and would become gender-inclusive. Current Mills College students would be able to complete their degree at either Mills College or Mills College at Northeastern University depending on the start of the alliance and a student’s degree path, Hillman said.

Tami Kelly, a spokesperson for Mills College, said it is not clear when the alliance might be complete.

Beforehand, Mills College students may be able to transfer to Northeastern University at no additional charge, depending on degree path, or transfer to another university that Mills has a transfer agreement with, college officials said. More information about opportunities to transfer is expected this fall.

Northeastern University is expected to accept scholarship and financial aid commitments that Mills has made to its current students, Hillman wrote.

(CREDIT: PHIL BOND/MILLS COLLEGE)

Subject to discussions around the alliance, a significant number of current Mills College faculty and staff are expected to continue working at Mills or be employed at another Northeastern University campus.

Northeastern University would support the creation of the Mills Institute, which Mills College was set to become before Thursday’s partnership announcement. The institute will likely provide research and advocacy to promote social justice, and among other things, advance women’s leadership.

Hillman said the outpouring of support for Mills following the March 17 announcement “has been essential in developing the details” of the opportunity with Northeastern University. She said an alliance would be the result “of the passionate place the College holds in the hearts of our faculty, staff, students, and alumnae.”

“Their stories and testimonies about lives that were changed by experiences at Mills are a legacy that can be sustained through a Mills College at Northeastern University,” Hillman said.

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