(Bloomberg) -- A small, private college on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is merging with Northeastern University, as the brutal economics of higher education unfold. 

Marymount Manhattan College, a school of about 1,400 students that has struggled with dwindling enrollment, has agreed to combine with the Boston-based university, according to a joint statement from both schools. The move adds a sought-after New York presence to Northeastern’s rapidly growing footprint and would establish its 14th campus. The governing boards of both schools have signed off, though the arrangement is subject to state and federal regulatory approval.

Through the deal, Northeastern assumes all of the school’s assets and liabilities, including valuable Manhattan real estate. Northeastern also widens its reach, appealing to applicants who want to study outside of Boston. Marymount Manhattan, in return, would effectively forfeit its brand but avoid the fate of many of the country’s small, liberal arts colleges forced to close. No money will change hands and current students at Marymount Manhattan would be absorbed into what will be called Northeastern — New York City. 

“MMC and Northeastern are natural partners,” Peter Naccarato, interim president of Marymount Manhattan, said in the statement. “We are very excited to establish this connection based on our shared values.”

The deal exemplifies a growing divergence in America’s system of higher education. Schools with strong demand, wide reach, a prestigious pedigree and large endowments thrive, while smaller institutions with fewer resources like Marymount Manhattan struggle to survive. Shrinking demand for college, partly caused by demographics leading to fewer high school graduates, combined with higher costs has created a stark economic reality. 

Marymount Manhattan’s plight represents dozens of similar schools across the country staring down an unsustainable future. And now that Covid-era funds are winding down, colleges are left sorting out their finances. For example, Birmingham-Southern College, a private school in Alabama with less than 1,000 students, said in March it is closing.

Read Bloomberg’s exclusive analysis of the higher education crisis: The Economics of Small US Colleges Are Faltering

Northeastern, where 22,000 undergrads attend its campuses in Boston, London and Oakland, has expanded its footprint in the US and overseas. It boasts campuses in Charlotte, North Carolina, Toronto, Seattle and Miami as well as other cities, giving students options to study where and what they want. Most schools can’t offer such luxuries, especially a tiny one like Marymount Manhattan. 


Currently enrolled and admitted Marymount Manhattan students will be able to continue as Northeastern students in their chosen field of study. Students will receive individualized guidance and support to ensure they complete their degrees, according to the release.

As part of the agreement, continuing students will not incur tuition or fee hikes, apart from customary annual increases. Full-time faculty members will become Northeastern faculty, receive one-year contracts, and be considered for available tenured, tenure-track and non-tenure-track positions.

Northeastern committed to continuing MMC’s prison education programs at the Bedford Hills and Taconic correctional facilities, according to the New York school whose campus is on East 71st Street.

Enrollment at Marymount Manhattan, a roughly 90-year-old institution known for its performing arts programming, shrank by about 17% over the last decade, according to federal data. The school’s former president, Kerry Walk, stepped down in June.

The structure of the deal, sometimes known as a balance-sheet transfer, isn’t entirely new for Northeastern. In 2022, the school absorbed Mills College in Oakland, California, with about 500 students. Mills students were allowed to continue paying their tuition through a teach-out agreement, despite the higher cost of Northeastern.

(Updates with details on continuation of programs in 10th paragraph.)

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