Mills College in Oakland is merging with Northeastern University following approval Tuesday by the Mills College board of trustees.
The merger is subject to regulatory and other approvals but is expected to be effective July 1 of next year. Mills College, once an all-women’s college, will then be gender-inclusive and known as Mills College at Northeastern University.
The merger was prompted by financial troubles brought on by declining student enrollment, Mills College President Beth Hillman said. She said the merger provides excitement, relief, and a sense of hope for what’s going to come next.
“This gives us short-term solutions, medium-term solutions and long-term solutions,” Hillman said of the merger.
Faculty and staff will as a next step work together to develop the curriculum for undergraduate and graduate studies at Mills. Mills officials said the graduate and undergraduate programs will be relevant to employers and students.
Faculty and staff will also be collaborating on the development of a Mills Institute, which will promote women’s leadership and empower first-generation students, among others.
College officials said until the merger is complete, Mills will continue to be an accredited degree-granting college led by the current administrators. They said Mills in the coming weeks will answer questions and provide more information about the merger.
Northeastern and Mills will be working to tend to the financial needs of Mills, which may now be able to pay more competitive wages to faculty and staff.
Students who finish at Mills before June 30, 2022, will be granted a degree from Mills College. Students who finish after that date will receive a degree from Mills College at Northeastern University.
Faculty members who have tenure at Mills College will have tenure with Mills College at Northeastern University and the merged institution will be offering tenure-track and adjunct faculty positions.
Staff who are employed at Mills College on June 30, 2022, will become employees of Northeastern University following that date.
A judge last month blocked the merger between the two institutions and granted a Mills College alum and voting member of the board of trustees Viji Nakka-Cammauf access to information on the college’s financial condition.
At a hearing Monday, the judge ruled Mills College complied with the court’s ruling and allowed the board of trustees to vote on the proposed merger.
“Northeastern has consistently demonstrated that it respects and values the vital contributions that Mills offers, voicing strong support for integrating the powerful mission of Mills through the Northeastern network,” board of trustees Chair Katie Sanborn said in a statement. “The Board sees the merger as a positive step forward that will enable the legacy of Mills to endure.”
Alexa Pagonas, vice president of the Board of Governors for the Alumnae Association of Mills College, said not everybody is happy with the decision.
“Many Alumnae and those in the Mills community are disheartened that the trustees decided to forego their fiduciary duties by blindly voting to approve this merger without a full and clear picture of Mills’ financial situation or a finalized term sheet as it relates to the deal,” Pagonas said.
“Dr. Viji Nakka-Cammauf will continue to do everything in her power to uphold her fiduciary duties to the entire Mills community and protect the legacy of the College,” Pagonas said.