BOSTON — The $75 million sale of Mount Ida College to the University of Massachusetts Amherst can proceed because UMass paid fair market value for the smaller school and the only alternative was the bankruptcy and closure of Mount Ida, the state attorney general’s office said Tuesday.
The office, while excoriating Mount Ida officials for the secretive way the sale was handled, and for throwing the lives of so many students into turmoil, said the transaction was aboveboard and does not need court approval. The attorney general is in charge of ensuring that charities and nonprofits get fair market value if they sell their assets.
The deal, announced last month, is worth more than $86 million, because it includes an unnamed creditor forgiving $11.5 million in Mount Ida debt on the condition the sale goes through.
“We are extremely disappointed in the way Mount Ida handled this closure,” Attorney General Maura Healy said in a statement. “Hundreds of students have had their education and future plans put in jeopardy, and many dedicated faculty and staff have lost their jobs.”
The attorney general’s office also said it has negotiated for all Mount Ida students to continue their educations.
When the deal was announced, UMass said it would allow Mount Ida students to transfer to UMass-Dartmouth, about 60 miles away. Many students in specialized programs, including veterinary technology and funeral services, were left in the lurch because UMass-Dartmouth does not offer those programs.
The review of the deal is not complete. The attorney general’s office is continuing to investigate whether Mount Ida trustees violated their fiduciary duties in addressing the school’s tenuous financial situation.
UMass-Amherst officials have said they plan to use Mount Ida’s 74-acre Newton campus for Boston-area career preparation programs.
The sale angered students and faculty at the financially struggling University of Massachusetts Boston, who said the money would have been better spent on their campus.
The state Senate’s Post Audit and Oversight Committee has scheduled a hearing on the deal at the Statehouse for Wednesday.
Mount Ida, with about 1,500 students, was founded in 1899 as a finishing school.
UMass-Amherst was founded in 1863 as Massachusetts Agricultural College. It has more than 30,000 students.