Mercy Offers to Take in As Many As 2,500 College of New Rochelle Students—But Not in Dobbs Ferry

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by Barrett Seaman – 

When the College of New Rochelle (CNR) announced last month that it would close its doors at the end of this summer, as many as 3,000 undergraduates were seemingly rendered academically homeless. To the rescue came Mercy College, with a promise to absorb any and all CNR students in good standing into its own programs so that they may graduate on time.

The plan had been formulating ever since the college’s financial woes first surfaced a few years ago, but it will still be no easy trick.  New Rochelle has some academic programs—as well as the requisite faculty to teach those courses—that Mercy doesn’t. While Mercy has a nursing program, for example, it does not have the second-degree program in nursing offered by CNR. Nor does it have a School of New Resources, a liberal arts program focused on critical thinking, writing and speaking that currently enrolls about 700 students at CNR’s Rosa Parks campus in Harlem.

To accomplish that, Mercy plans to hire some of the CNR faculty members and possibly to lease former CNR classrooms. It will also have to accommodate the scholarship needs of the new students. Currently, Mercy gives out about $34 million in financial aid—half of it need-based. All of this will be managed under the watchful eye of the New York State Department of Education and the relevant accrediting agencies.

How much this act of charity will cost Mercy ultimately depends on how many students take them up on the offer. In addition to the prospect of a seamless transition, they may find additional incentive from Mercy’s tuition rate, which is slightly lower than what they were paying at CNR.

While Mercy’s operating costs may go up on account of the arrangement, they are not taking on any of CNR’s financial debts, estimated at more than $30 million.

What Mercy does get from the arrangement is an opportunity to jump start some academic programs, like the nursing and liberal arts offerings that would otherwise take years to develop from scratch. Said Mercy President Dr. Timothy Hall, “We will be working very fast to seek approval for new programs that will then become permanent.”

The college will also inherit New Rochelle’s alumni base. To win their loyalty, Mercy is reaching out to CNR graduates to ascertain who and what traditions should be honored and how best to incorporate their reunions going forward. After all, every new, loyal alum deserves the opportunity to reconnect with classmates and become a potential donor.

What the expansion does not mean, according to Hall, is an expansion of the student body on the main Dobbs Ferry campus.

“Among the first calls I made after the announcement,” said Hall, “was to the mayors of our two adjacent villages (Dobbs Ferry and Irvington) to assure them that this did not mean increased traffic. The new students will most likely matriculate at Mercy’s Bronx and Manhattan campuses. Dobbs Ferry campus,” he said, “is at relative capacity now.”

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