What to do?
Washington didn't stick around for a battle. His army sneaked away under cover of darkness, leaving campfires burning and a small rear guard to deceive the British into thinking the Continentals were going to fight it out the next morning.
Mount Ida College, like George Washington, knows when to slip away. Following Washington's example, it gave every indication that it would be open for business for the 2018-2019 school year. The college admitted a new freshman class; it even offered scholarships to attract more students.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, Mount Ida announced it was shutting down. It had been quietly negotiating with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which agreed to buy Mount Ida's 72-acre campus for $70 million. It also revealed that it had agreements in place with nearby colleges to take Mount Ida's transfer students.
Did Mount Ida behave reprehensibly? I don't think so. I'm sure Mount Ida's governing board knew it had to act in secrecy in order to make a clean getaway.
Understandably, students, parents, and Mount Ida professors are angry. "Why are you preying on our children, luring them to come to Mount Ida with nonexistant money?" a mother of an incoming freshman asked.
Professor Fernando Reimers, a Harvard professor and member of the state board of higher education, also judged Mount Ida harshly. "It seems to me that this is not only an example of system failure," Reimers fulminated self-righteously. "[T]his is an example of serious leadership failure."
But what does Professor Reimers know about running a small liberal arts college? Not much, I'll warrant.
Mount Ida is the latest name on a growing casualty list of small colleges that are calling it quits. These little boutique schools just can't make it in an age of soaring tuition and an ever more burdensome regulatory environment.
We shouldn't condemn Mount Ida's governing board for the way it announced the school's closure. There is no painless way to shut down a college. It may have acted deceptively by pretending it was going to be operating for another year, but Mount Ida was simply stoking its campfires, much like Washington did on the banks of Assunpink Creek, sneaking away as best it could in the face of overwhelming forces.
As the immortal Kenny Rogers put it, you have to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. In the next few years, we will see a lot of small colleges shut down. Parents who don't want to run the risk that their children's college will shut down precipitously, should send their kids to a public university.
|George Washington knew when to fold 'em.|