Mills College is closing. Mills College is closing. Mills College is closing. Mills College is closing.
No matter how many times I write that reality, it reads like a dream. But the place I never believed would not be part of Oakland has announced it’s closing. The last time I remembered anything like this almost happening was back in 1995, when Mills College faced the possibility of closing its doors, but found a way to survive, and live on. But, from reading Mills President Elizabeth L. Hillman’s message, this time, it’s done.
Mills College was a college for women and produced and has produced some of the finest people I have had the pleasure to know. You’ve not lived until you could say you knew, or even dated, (as I have) a Mills woman. Mills women are smart, strong, beautiful, confident, serious, deep, and funny.
They were incredible rugby players, too.
The World has no idea of the disaster that happened on St. Patrick’s Day 2021. Here’s Elizabeth L. Hillman:
Oakland, CA—March 17, 2021
A Message from Mills President Elizabeth L. Hillman
Since 1852, Mills College has brought transformative learning opportunities to many by breaking barriers, forging connections, and changing lives. Today, because of the economic burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic, structural changes across higher education, and Mills’ declining enrollment and budget deficits, Mills must begin to shift away from being a degree-granting college and toward becoming a Mills Institute that can sustain Mills’ mission. The Mills College Board of Trustees, after careful consideration, has decided that after fall 2021, Mills will no longer enroll new first-year undergraduate students. We will focus our resources on building degree pathways for our continuing students, and supporting the new first-year undergraduate, transfer, and graduate students who will join us this fall. Mills will most likely confer its final degrees in 2023, pending further consideration and action by the Board of Trustees.
We will begin to transition our academic programs by creating options and degree pathways for all Mills students. The Provost’s Office, working under the guidance of Mills’ accrediting agency, the WASC Senior College and University Commission, will develop plans for each degree program that Mills offers, enabling students to either earn a Mills degree or transfer to another college or university. Our Admissions Office will support students who choose to pursue transfer opportunities outside Mills through agreements with peer institutions. Mills is committed to working with these institutions to provide our students with streamlined admission processes, financial aid support, and pathways to degree completion.
While Mills’ role as a degree-granting college will end, its mission will endure. Mills intends to continue to foster women’s leadership and student success, advance gender and racial equity, and cultivate innovative pedagogy, research, and critical thinking by creating a Mills Institute housed here on campus. Over the next few months, Mills faculty, trustees, staff, students, alumnae, and other stakeholders across our community will consider potential structures and programming for a Mills Institute. We will provide regular updates as the design of the Mills Institute evolves. At the same time, Mills is pursuing promising discussions with other academic institutions to continue the College’s mission. We also will keep you informed about those discussions.
Our goal is to deliver an exceptional academic and co-curricular experience to our students for at least the next two academic years, with Mills faculty and staff at the heart of that experience. Additional information will be provided in the coming weeks regarding academic opportunities for students. Similar planning will be launched to develop transition plans and opportunities for faculty and staff.
Today’s news signals the end of an era in Mills College’s history. It may provoke a variety of reactions and emotions in you, as it has in me. I also expect you will have many questions, some of which I will not yet be able to answer. Mills takes seriously our obligation to keep you apprised as we assess options and build pathways for transition. Since it began as a small seminary in Benicia, California, Mills has brought learning and inspiration to those who might not otherwise have found it. The next chapter in Mills’ history will do likewise, serving Mills’ educational mission and sustaining its commitment to equity. We will need everyone’s help to navigate a successful transition and write that next chapter.
Elizabeth L. Hillman
President, Mills College
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