Mount Ida College Students File Lawsuit Alleging Violations of Privacy, Fraud, and Negligent Misrepresentation by Shuttered School
U.S. District Court Lawsuit Filed Against Mount Ida College, Board of Trustees, and Administrators
BOSTON – Former students at Mount Ida College today filed a class action lawsuit in United States District Court against the school, its board of trustees, and five Mount Ida administrators. The lawsuit alleges that Mount Ida, which abruptly closed its doors in May 2018, violated students’ privacy, committed fraud, and engaged in negligent misrepresentation, among other claims.
“The fallout [from Mount Ida’s closure] was catastrophic,” reads the lawsuit. “Among numerous consequences, students were faced with finding an alternative institution to meet their educational goals to which to transfer – a daunting task given that transfer deadlines for most institutions had passed or were imminent; many students were left with degree programs that were discontinued or credits that could not be transferred; and many students lost their scholarships and other forms of financial aid. This could have been avoided.”
“Words can not express the feeling of deceit and betrayal I felt when it was announced that my school would be closing,” said plaintiff Tristan Squeri of Burlington, Massachusetts, who enrolled at Mount Ida in 2015, seeking his Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design. He now attends Lesley University where he is seeking an alternative degree of a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and will be required to enroll in extra semesters should he continue to pursue his intended minor in animation.
“My last few weeks at Mount Ida were chaotic at best, with many of us still taking finals for a school that was being sold out from under us,” Squeri added. “Instead of looking forward to my last year and all that it should be, I was now reapplying to colleges like I was a senior in high school all over again – only this time I was doing it at a frantic pace, with decisions needing to be made rapidly. The school I trusted just tossed us all aside with no consideration as to how this would affect us.”
The lawsuit alleges that prior to the April 6, 2018 announcement that Mount Ida would close and be sold to UMass Amherst, the college provided UMass Dartmouth with students’ sensitive and private student academic data without prior authorization, in violation of the Massachusetts Right of Privacy Act and the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
“Mount Ida entered into an agreement to sell its land to UMass and close the college,” reads the lawsuit. “As part of this deal, Mount Ida funneled its students to UMass Dartmouth, illegally providing UMass with sensitive student financial and academic information, which was inexplicably provided as part of a land acquisition.”
“The sudden closure of Mount Ida deprived enrolled and prospective students of their ability to meaningfully consider alternate schools, and Mount Ida knew this,” the lawsuit continues. “It was exactly when the students were most vulnerable when Mount Ida released its students’ private information to UMass Dartmouth, allowing UMass Dartmouth to approach each individual student armed with knowledge of their specific finances, grades, awards, and majors. In effect, Mount Ida sold its students, at a discount, to UMass Dartmouth, as an incentive in the land transaction.
“The closing of Mount Ida came so quickly that it felt like I was being punished for something, but had no idea what I did wrong. It was heartbreaking,” said George O’Dea of Brookline, Massachusetts, who enrolled at Mount Ida in the Bachelor of Science in Funeral Service Program in 2016. He now attends Cape Cod Community College’s Associate in Science in Funeral Services Program, which holds classes at Bridgewater State University. “There has been no communication or real help offered by the President and administration to me or many of my friends. It’s like we’ve been left on our own. Before the closure, I was doing the best I’d ever done academically, and felt like I was on the top of the world. The closure took that all away.”
The lawsuit is being funded by higher education philanthropist Bob Hildreth, the founder of the Hildreth Institute, Inversant, and La Vida Scholars. Lawyers for the plaintiffs are Andra J. Hutchins, Esq. and Michael Tauer, Esq., Partners at Kerstein, Coren & Lichtenstein, LLP, and Joshua N. Garick, Esq. of the Law Offices of Joshua N. Garick, P.C.
“Mount Ida College treated its students as inventory, not as individuals with rights,” said Hildreth. “With this lawsuit, we aim to hold Mount Ida accountable. This lawsuit is a shot across the bow of all colleges that if you are going to merge with, purchase, or replace another college, you must first protect the rights of your students.”
The lawsuit alleges that Mount Ida, its board of trustees, and the school’s administrators committed fraud, negligent misrepresentation, fraud in the inducement, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract in their actions leading up to the school’s closure.
“The Defendants knew of the financial distress of Mount Ida by as early as 2014. The Defendants knew that Mount Ida was teetering on insolvency and that bankruptcy was seriously being considered,” reads the lawsuit. “The Defendants knew that Mount Ida was not financially viable, yet they continued to offer enrollment up until all deadlines for admissions to other colleges had passed or were imminent…The fact that Mount Ida was teetering on the brink of insolvency was deliberately withheld from current and prospective students. The Defendants made such representations and omissions to students for the purpose of inducing [students] to enroll and remain enrolled at Mount Ida.”
“I never set foot on the campus of Mount Ida College, yet my educational hopes and dreams were crushed,” said plaintiff Madeline McClain of Westampton, New Jersey, who expected to enroll at Mount Ida in 2018 in the Bachelor of Science Veterinary Technology program. “I was accepted to six different colleges, but Mount Ida was the one school that had everything I wanted. It was a small school with the veterinary curriculum I was looking for. The fact that Mount Ida offered near 100 percent tuition-free education was an additional blessing.”
“Things came crashing down on April 5th, when I found out that Admitted Students Day at Mt. Ida had been cancelled, with no explanation, and then soon found out that the school was closing,” continued McClain. “I had nowhere to go, because most of the schools I was accepted to had either closed out their acceptances, or had little to no money to award any additional financial aid.”
Mount Ida students who were affected by the school’s closure can obtain more information about the class action lawsuit by contacting Sean LaPorta at firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting the KCL website at www.kcl-law.com.