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Newbury College put on probation over finance concerns

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 8/21/2018 By Laura Krantz

Newbury College, a small private liberal arts school in Brookline, has been placed on probation by the regional accrediting agency over concerns about its finances, according to accreditors and the college.

The school, which has suffered for years from declining enrollment and struggled this year to close a 10 percent budget gap, is just one of two small schools in New England to be cited recently by accreditors for financial concerns.

Small colleges are increasingly struggling to meet costs as tuition dollars remain a shrinking source of revenue and enrollment declines. The Globe recently reported that at more than half of the 75 smallest private colleges in the region tuition revenue is failing to keep up with expenses.

Enrollment at Newbury College dropped 24 percent between 2012 and 2016, the most recent data available from the federal government. Meanwhile, it derives about three quarters of its revenue from student charges, data show.

In an email Monday, Newbury President Joseph L. Chillo said he and his team have made a series of financial decisions that will address the concerns of the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education at the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and provide the school options for how to move forward. He said it is exploring real estate transactions and partnerships with other colleges. He said it is also looking for ways to reduce expenses so tuition remains affordable.

“We are confident Newbury College can continue to provide a stellar educational experience while simultaneously addressing the Commission’s concerns,” Chillo said in the email.

The college, which has about 620 students, welcomed its largest freshmen class this fall, he said, and three out of four freshmen from last year are returning, he said, the highest retention rate in more than a decade.

Chillo said the school notified the state Department of Higher Education, attorney general’s office, and state lawmakers earlier this month about its probationary status. The school also notified faculty, staff, and students who had registered and made a deposit for the fall semester.

After Mount Ida College in Newton closed abruptly in May, the regional accreditors have been more watchful of such schools and are exploring ways to better identify problems before schools are forced to close. The College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vt., was also recently put on probation.

Newbury College. © David L Ryan/Globe Staff Newbury College.

Probation lasts up to two years, during which the commission will monitor the school’s conditions. The vote came on June 28, and the accrediting agency notified the school shortly thereafter.

If the college does not meet the requirements after two years, its accreditation will be revoked, meaning it will no longer be eligible to receive federal funds. Students who attend a college that is not accredited are not eligible to receive federal student loans.

There are nine standards that schools must meet to remain accredited. Newbury College did not meet the standard that concerns financial resources.

The school must demonstrate it has sufficient human, financial, physical, and technological resources to support its mission. It must demonstrate that it has the financial capacity to graduate its entering class, show that it administers its resources in an ethical manner, and demonstrate adequate internal controls.

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