- Bloomfield College, a private nonprofit minority-serving institution in New Jersey, will receive financial support from the neighboring public Montclair State University to avoid a potential closure.
- The Montclair State governing board this week authorized the institution to provide Bloomfield funding as needed until the two institutions can strike a merger or affiliation agreement. Loans made under the agreement will be secured by a lien on the college's real estate.
- Bloomfield officials in October publicly requested financial backing, including from other institutions and corporations, saying otherwise the college may not remain open through the 2022-23 academic year.
Bloomfield is unique, calling itself the only four-year predominantly Black, Hispanic-serving and minority-serving institution in New Jersey.
Pandemic-induced enrollment declines, like at many small private institutions that serve disadvantaged students, shook Bloomfield's finances.
Bloomfield enrolled 1,299 undergraduates and a single graduate student in 2021, down from 18 graduate students and 1,824 undergraduates in 2017.
The college is highly tuition dependent, and the downturn likely affected its bottom line "for years to come," officials said in October.
At the time, Bloomfield pitched itself to potential partners by citing its record of promoting economic mobility among its students, more than 85% of whom are of color.
More than 70% of its students are eligible for federal Pell Grants, a statistic that serves as a proxy for low-income status. The median family income among students is less than $32,000 a year.
Bloomfield's plea was unusual. Acquisition or merger deals are typically struck much more privately, in part to avoid anxiety among students and employees.
Yet it was successful. More than 30 interested institutions reached out to Bloomfield to assist, its president, Marcheta Evans, said in an emailed statement.
Evans said the college benefitted by publicly sharing the college's financial situation.
"When I became president of Bloomfield College, I expressed to the campus community that I would be transparent," Evans said. "Sharing the college's financial challenges was in keeping with that promise. Being up front about the college's need for help expedited our efforts to connect with other higher education institutions that were attracted to all Bloomfield has to offer."
And not only will Bloomfield now have the money necessary to keep its doors open from Montclair State, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, proposed a $5 million line item for the college in the state's 2023 budget.
This funding, if the Legislature approves it, would help cushion the financial blow Bloomfield has taken.
In December, the two presidents of the institutions signed a nonbinding letter of intent to develop a permanent partnership, such as a merger.
Montclair State President Jonathan G.S. Koppell said in a statement the two institutions' missions are "closely aligned."
The university's enrollment totals about 16,000 students. About 30% of them are Hispanic or Latino, 13% are Black and 40% are White.
"We are both committed to providing access to high-quality educational experiences to students who are often marginalized," Koppell said. "So this response to financial adversity is borne of the conviction that together, we can make an even greater impact on the communities we serve. This is what it means to be New Jersey's premier public service university: turning challenge into opportunity through collaboration and innovation."
The deal could serve as a model for other financially floundering institutions.
Robert Kelchen, a higher education professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, wrote on Twitter it was "big news" and that he expects to see more "public universities essentially acquiring small private colleges in the coming years."
Other consolidations have moved forward in recent weeks. The University of San Francisco plans to acquire the San Francisco Art Institute, the two institutions said last month.
And an accreditor recently approved three mergers in Pennsylvania, two with the state's public higher ed network, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which will turn six institutions into two. The third is the merger of the University of the Sciences, the U.S.'s first pharmacy college, with Saint Joseph's University.