MillsNext: A Blueprint for Restructuring Leading Bay Area College Takes Significant Steps to Address Challenges

Oakland, CA—May 16, 2017

Mills College, a nationally respected, independent liberal arts college for women with innovative graduate programs for students of all genders, has announced a blueprint to better meet students’ needs and overcome financial challenges.

Today, the Mills College Board of Trustees put the wheels in motion to revamp the college’s finances to reverse a persistent and growing deficit. Following the college’s rules, the Board has declared a financial emergency, authorizing adoption of a Financial Stabilization Plan (FSP) that will enable Mills to reduce its deficit and more quickly reorganize the college to meet the needs and interests of students.

“Like so many academic institutions across the country today, Mills is facing financial challenges that require us to change the way we think,” said Mills’ President Elizabeth L. Hillman. “It’s time to act strategically to secure Mills’ future and prepare for growth and collaboration.”

“The Board takes seriously its responsibility to steward our resources for the long term,” said Board of Trustees Chair Katie Sanborn.” Following a great deal of work over the past few years by the entire college, it’s time to give our exceptional new leadership team the opportunity to realign our programs and build momentum around excellence in science, technology and the arts, in applied and real world learning, and in gender and racial justice.”   

Mills College announced a new blueprint for transforming the College and addressing the long-term budget deficit today. Entitled MillsNext, it is built on three priorities that emphasize:  

  • Academic excellence in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences, and technology;
  • Applied learning, global understanding, and real-world skills development; and
  • Gender and racial justice through academic programs and community engagement.

MillsNext enables us to retain the distinctive Mills experience while transforming our programs to be more attractive, affordable, and accessible,” said Hillman.

“In these challenging times for liberal arts colleges, we need leaders who are willing to make strategic decisions that sustain their institution's mission while adapting it to today's needs and realities,” said Elizabeth Kiss President of Agnes Scott College. “Innovation requires presidents, boards and faculty to face up to tough challenges, make smart choices, and keep their eye on the long-term sustainability of the institutions they serve.”

Mills College will now develop and implement a Financial Stabilization Plan (FSP) that will require a reduction in force (RIF) of staff and faculty. "We regret that difficult decisions will be necessary to assure the college's health and permit the refocusing of our programs. We deeply appreciate the service of all of our faculty and staff and understand that these changes will be painful for those whose jobs and careers are changed, and also for our entire community," said Hillman.

MillsNext will include a new undergraduate signature experience, which will combine individualized and mentored learning. Strategic alliances with other institutions, including UC Berkeley and the Peralta colleges, are underway to boost enrollment and enhance opportunities for Mills students. Mills will also explore public and private partnership opportunities in the arts, business, and technology to integrate community and professional connections into students’ academic programs.

UC Berkeley Chancellor-Designate Carol Christ said, “We are so fortunate to have Mills College in the East Bay, with its 165-year heritage of graduating students who become leaders in whatever path they pursue.  Like many academic institutions across the country, Mills is taking steps to address the many challenges higher education faces today—developing a distinctive value proposition, creating a sustainable financial model, and assuring equity and access. Berkeley is excited about the new partnership with Mills that will be part of this plan. I hold President Hillman in the highest regard; I am confident that President Hillman is making good decisions that will give Mills momentum for the future.”

Mills’ commitment to providing a rigorous, broad-based intellectual experience rooted in both the liberal arts and gender and racial justice will enable it to continue ambitious fundraising efforts that have led to enormous success in the current academic year, during which Mills has already secured some $14 million in philanthropic support.

“Mills has long been recognized as a place where students can find their voices as they take on intellectual challenges and prepare to change the world,” said Hillman. “The structural changes we’re making now will build on that legacy and make Mills an even more powerful force in the future.”

About Mills College
Located in Oakland, California, in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, Mills College is a nationally renowned independent liberal arts college for women, with graduate programs for women and men. Ranked one of the top-tier regional universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report, Mills is also recognized as one of The Best 381 Colleges in the nation by The Princeton Review. Since 1852, we’ve been empowering students to become creative, independent thinkers who take and inspire action. For more information, visit www.mills.edu.