Mills College to Merge with Northeastern University

Oakland, CA—September 14, 2021

The Mills College Board of Trustees today approved the College’s merger with Northeastern University, ensuring that the educational mission of Mills and its commitment to cultivating women’s leadership will endure. The merger is expected to take effect on or about July 1, 2022, subject to regulatory and other approvals. When the merger is completed, Mills will be a campus of Northeastern University and will be called Mills College at Northeastern University. The campus will be gender inclusive.

“This is a big leap for Mills and an exceptional opportunity for our entire community,” said Mills President Elizabeth L. Hillman. “An alliance with Northeastern empowers Mills to continue doing what it has done since its founding in 1852—offer exceptional educational opportunities to students who want to make a difference. It also means that the Mills campus will remain a vibrant center of learning with deep and meaningful connections with the broader Oakland community. As we embark on a new path, we will honor our roots as a historic women’s college.”

Hillman thanked Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun and his team for their dedication to working with Mills over the last several months to negotiate the many details of the strategic merger. “What kept us energized and focused was our common commitment to ensuring that all students, regardless of backgrounds, have access to a range of academic opportunities so they are well prepared to take their place in the world,” Hillman said.

“Together we have an opportunity to create something truly unique in higher education,” Aoun added. “We aspire to build a comprehensive, bicoastal university that leverages the complementary strengths of Mills and Northeastern for the benefit of students and society. Our world is in desperate need of what great colleges and universities provide: knowledge, discovery, innovation, inclusion, and service. By joining together, Mills and Northeastern can reach new heights and have broader impacts on our world.”

A next step in the process is for Mills and Northeastern faculty and staff to work jointly to develop the undergraduate and graduate degree programs that will be offered through Mills College at Northeastern University, leveraging the strengths of both Mills College and Northeastern University. Degree programs will be relevant to students and also to the employer community.

Also, faculty and staff from both Mills and Northeastern will collaborate to further develop a Mills Institute to carry on the Mills legacy of advancing women’s leadership and empowering BIPOC and first-generation students. Northeastern has committed seed money to launch and fund the Institute.

Until the merger occurs, Mills will continue to operate as an accredited degree-granting institution and will be led by its current administration. In the coming weeks and months, Mills will meet with students, faculty, staff, alumnae, and the Oakland community to provide additional information, as it becomes available, and to answer questions. Mills and Northeastern will also work together to address Mills’ financial needs through the completion of the merger, including working with Mills’ lenders to satisfy its outstanding debts.

The merger agreement includes the following:

  • For Students: Students who complete their studies before June 30, 2022, will graduate with a degree from Mills College. Students who complete their studies after June 30, 2022, will graduate with a degree from Mills College at Northeastern University. Mills and Northeastern will provide transition counseling and financial support to help each student evaluate options for continuing, and funding, their degree work. That support will enable currently enrolled students to complete their degrees without increases in anticipated costs.
  • For Faculty: Northeastern will honor and abide by the terms of tenure of Mills faculty who hold a tenured position or a continuous contract and will offer tenure-track faculty and adjunct faculty opportunities for employment.
  • For Staff: Staff who are employees of Mills on July 1, 2022, will become employees of Northeastern.
  • For Alumnae: Northeastern will support Mills alumnae to engage with their alma mater through reunions and campus events. Northeastern will continue to support the Reinhardt Alumnae House. Alumnae of Mills will be eligible for benefits available to Northeastern graduates including a 25 percent tuition discount on degree programs in the Northeastern campus network.
  • For Community: Northeastern will oversee the creation of formal procurement policies at the Mills campus to support local, women-, and minority-owned businesses. Mills College at Northeastern University will continue to foster mutually beneficial relationships with communities and institutions around the Mills campus, including with the City of Oakland.

The Mills College Board of Trustees voted in June to negotiate a merger with Northeastern. The merger is an opportunity to expand Mills’ core strengths, including advancing student access, women’s leadership, equity, and social justice. It will enable the extraordinary legacy of Mills College to thrive within the global networked campuses of Northeastern University, and it will allow the Mills campus to continue to be a place where degrees are conferred with the Mills name.

“From the onset of discussions, Northeastern has consistently demonstrated that it respects and values the vital contributions that Mills offers, voicing strong support for integrating the powerful mission of Mills through the Northeastern network,” said Board Chair Katie Sanborn. “The Board sees the merger as a positive step forward that will enable the legacy of Mills to endure.”

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. Consistently ranked one of the top-ten regional universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report, Mills has again earned the #1 Best Value College in the West for 2022. 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.

About Northeastern University

Founded in 1898, Northeastern is a global research university and the recognized leader in experience-powered lifelong learning. Northeastern’s world-renowned experiential approach empowers their students, faculty, alumni, and partners to create impact far beyond the confines of discipline, degree, and campus.

Northeastern's locations—in Boston; the Massachusetts communities of Burlington and Nahant; Charlotte, North Carolina; London; Portland, Maine; San Francisco; Seattle; Silicon Valley; Toronto; and Vancouver—are nodes in a growing global university system. Through this network, Northeastern expands opportunities for flexible, student-centered learning and collaborative, solutions-focused research.

Northeastern’s comprehensive array of undergraduate and graduate programs—in on-campus, online, and hybrid formats—leads to degrees through the doctorate in nine colleges and schools. Among these, Northeastern offers more than 140 multidisciplinary majors and degrees designed to prepare students for purposeful lives and careers.

Mills College Media Contact: Tami Kelly

Northeastern University Media Contact: Renata Nyul