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Northeastern University to Merge with Embattled Mills College


Boston-based Northeastern University (NU) and Mills College in Oakland, California have reached a final agreement to merge beginning in 2022 following months of discussions and a court battle.

In a press release, NU announced that the governing boards of the two academic institutions approved the merger, agreeing to continue a mission focused on access, equity, social justice, and women’s leadership.

According to Mills President Elizabeth L. Hillman, forming an alliance with the Boston-based institution will help her college continue offering “exceptional educational opportunities” and allow Mills to remain a “vibrant center of learning” for a broader Oakland community.

“The merger with Northeastern offers concrete and meaningful opportunities for our students, faculty, staff, and alumni — opportunities that Mills could not offer on its own,” Hillman said.

Earlier this year, Mills announced that it would stop admitting new students after fall 2021 and shut down entirely by 2023 after financial pressures and a massive decline in enrolment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fight in Federal Court

In June, four members of the Alumnae Association of Mills College (AAMC) filed a lawsuit against several college officials for allegedly not providing the governing board with numerous requested financial documents needed to decide on the future of the women’s college.

The plaintiffs asked the federal court to issue a restraining order against the college until the documents were provided. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Pulido then ordered Mills to hand over hundreds of requested financial documents to the president of the AAMC.

The alumni association also recently sought an extension of the restraining order preventing the two institutions from voting on the merger. However, a federal judge denied the request, allowing the vote to push through.

Advantages of the Merger

After announcing a few months ago that Mills will no longer offer four-year degrees, Hillman reversed the decision, saying the college would continue to grant degrees until the partnership date. Student diplomas will indicate that they earned their degrees from “Mills College at Northeastern.”

All enrollees at Mills will have the option to continue their degrees at the California-based college or transfer to NU without additional cost. Moreover, existing financial aid given to Mills students will be honored by the Boston-based institution.

With regards to faculty members, NU assured that it will honor and abide by the terms of tenure of Mills faculty who have tenured positions or continuous contracts. Staff will also become employees of NU starting in 2022.

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