Mills College & Northeastern University Pursue New Alliance

A broad aerial photo showing multi-story brick buildings, one of which displays a striking mural of a woman with braids, and groups of students sitting on a large lawn ringed by trees. Oakland, CA—June 17, 2021
A Message from Mills President Elizabeth L. Hillman

Dear All,

I am excited to share that today, Mills will begin formal discussions to combine with Northeastern University, a private, nonprofit, Boston-based research university with a global presence. Our goal is to combine our two institutions so that, together, we can expand Mills’ core strengths, including advancing student access, women’s leadership, equity, and social justice. This new alliance would allow for continued conferral of degrees on the Mills campus with the Mills name as part of those degrees; enhanced support for Mills’ current students, faculty, and staff; and the future development of new educational programs.

Due to mounting financial challenges, on March 17 we announced that Mills would stop accepting first-year students after fall 2021 and would most likely confer its final degrees in 2023, pending further consideration and action by the Board of Trustees. The Board has authorized negotiations with Northeastern University because its leaders understand and support the vital contributions Mills offers, and because we share a vision of what education can and must be in the coming decades. The missions of Mills and Northeastern are aligned through our shared commitment to access, social justice, and urban engagement.

Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun shared his thoughts with us on the proposed alliance: “Together with our colleagues at Mills, we are seeking to create something truly unique in higher education. Northeastern’s history and enduring focus on inclusion and empowering people from all backgrounds to realize educational and lifelong success is in perfect congruence with Mills and its ideals. Not only are our missions aligned, but by combining our signature strengths, we can create new and distinctive opportunities that extend and enhance our collective priorities.”

As part of an anticipated alliance, Mills and Northeastern expect to realize the following outcomes, subject to continuing discussions and development of a finalized agreement:

  • Mills would become Mills College at Northeastern University. Though Mills would not be an independent, standalone institution, undergraduate and graduate degrees would be offered through a Mills College at Northeastern University. Mills would become gender inclusive at the undergraduate level.
  • Current Mills students will be able to complete their degrees at Mills or at Mills College at Northeastern University, depending on a student’s degree path and timing of the alliance. Prior to finalization of the alliance, Mills students would also have the possible option to transfer to Northeastern at no additional cost, based on individual degree paths, or to transfer to other universities with which Mills has negotiated transfer agreements. More information is expected to be available this fall regarding specific pathways.
  • Scholarship and financial aid commitments that Mills has made to current Mills College students would be honored by Mills College at Northeastern University.
  • Subject to the results of collaborative efforts on academic program development that will be part of formal discussions, a significant number of Mills faculty and staff would be offered opportunities for continued employment either on the Mills campus at Northeastern University or at other Northeastern University campuses where their skills and experience would be aligned.
  • Northeastern understands the importance of Mills receiving financial support to cover its operating expenses and to enable Mills to offer compensation increases for staff and faculty members.
  • Northeastern would extend its tuition remission program, which covers tuition for employees and their eligible dependents who are admitted to Northeastern degree programs, to Mills employees.
  • In addition to Mills College at Northeastern University, Northeastern would support the launch of a Mills Institute or Center as a hub for research and advocacy to advance women’s leadership, educational access, social justice, and other causes embedded in the Mills mission and legacy.
  • Mills College alumnae could continue to participate in Mills College reunions and maintain access to the College’s Reinhardt Alumnae House on the Mills campus. They would be eligible to participate in an array of Northeastern alumni programs, such as reduced cost access to educational programs across Northeastern’s global network.

The recent outpouring of support for the mission of Mills College has been essential in developing the details of this new opportunity. Should Mills and Northeastern reach an agreement to realize the potential of this alliance, it will be a result of the passionate place the College holds in the hearts of our faculty, staff, students, and alumnae. Their stories and testimonies about lives that were changed by experiences at Mills are a legacy that can be sustained through a Mills College at Northeastern University.

This collaboration will enable the extraordinary legacy of Mills College to thrive within the global networked campuses of Northeastern University, an innovative and growing university. It will sustain Mills’ educational mission as a college within Northeastern University, ensure the Mills campus continues to be a place of inspiration and learning, and expand Mills’ impact into the future. I look forward to realizing this opportunity in collaboration with the Mills community, and I deeply appreciate the support of everyone whose hard work has helped to make it possible. I will continue to keep the Mills community informed as discussions with Northeastern proceed and more information becomes available.

Elizabeth L. Hillman
President, Mills College

About Mills College

Located in Oakland, California, Mills is a nationally renowned independent liberal arts college for women and gender nonbinary students, with graduate programs for all genders. Ranked one of the top-tier regional universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report, Mills is also recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the Best 386 Colleges in the nation. As one of the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the country, Mills has a strong record of academic success with first-generation students, students of color, Latinx students, LGBTQ+ students, and other underrepresented students. The Mills experience is distinguished by small, interactive classes, one-on-one attention from exceptional faculty, a culture of creative experimentation, and cutting-edge interdisciplinary learning opportunities which empower students to make a statement in their careers and communities.

For media inquiries, contact:
Barbara French
Phone: 415.577.8105