The merger of Boston University and Wheelock College will create a new school of education that will combine the doctoral programs and research capabilities of BU’s School of Education with the early childhood expertise of Wheelock’s School of Education, Child Life and Family Studies, while other Wheelock programs will be joined with appropriate programs at BU. The new college will be called the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, according to a definitive agreement reached by the parties.
BU President Robert A. Brown says he is pleased that the two schools have reached an agreement on the merger. “We believe that BU’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development will be one of the leading colleges of education in the country, with its focus on clinical practice, scholarship, and community engagement,” Brown says. “The commitment to establish and support this new college will, I believe, appropriately preserve and enhance the great legacy of Wheelock College.”
Wheelock and BU will immediately form a Transition Committee charged with advising Jean Morrison, BU provost, on the academic programs that will be offered by the new college. The committee will be chaired by David Chard, Wheelock president, and vicechaired by Catherine O’Connor, interim dean of SED, and will include four faculty members from Wheelock and four from SED. In addition to this committee, Wheelock and BU will put in place a transition implementation structure to ensure that the integration of Wheelock and BU proceeds smoothly and includes input from stakeholders at both institutions.
“The combination of the programs of the two schools and the additional resources we plan to deploy gives Boston University the opportunity to commit with renewed energy to our long-standing efforts to promote quality early childhood and K–12 education.” —Robert A. Brown
The merger, which is scheduled to take place on June 1, 2018, gives BU ownership of all assets and liabilities of Wheelock College, and combines SED with Wheelock’s School of Education, Child Life and Family Studies, establishing a single school, BU’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development (WCEHD), which will be a centrally budgeted academic unit of Boston University, managed by University leadership and governed by BU’s Board of Trustees. The plan calls for Chard to serve as interim dean of WCEHD from the time of the merger to July 1, 2020, and to report to Morrison. The parties have agreed that immediately following the merger, the Wheelock campus will be used for Boston University academic programs.
Students currently enrolled at Wheelock will either become students in existing programs at BU, will continue in select Wheelock programs that will be newly incorporated into Boston University, or, in some cases, will enroll in a transitional program that will allow them to complete their Wheelock course of study.
Boston University will honor the tuition rates and financial aid packages of current Wheelock students. They will not have to pay BU rates, although their tuition may increase with inflation.
All applicants seeking admission to WCEHD after the merger has been completed will be evaluated in accordance with Boston University admissions requirements, and BU’s tuition, financial aid strategies, and scholarship funds will apply to those students. WCEHD students will be part of BU’s student body, will complete the same general education program, and will have access to the same educational and cocurricular opportunities as other BU students. Requirements for graduate students, including academic and admissions standards and financial aid strategies, will be developed by BU’s Office of the Provost. Alumni of Wheelock College will be treated as alumni of WCEHD and Boston University.
Morrison says BU and Wheelock have agreed on a process for determining the titles and responsibilities that will be assumed by currently tenured Wheelock faculty at BU. She says decisions about nontenured faculty will be made on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the needs of relevant academic units at BU.
“It’s a very good match. Boston University and Wheelock both have a historical focus on the city, and they both have a desire to double down on efforts to support the institutions that are most important to the city: its public schools and social services.” —David Chard
BU and Wheelock have agreed that administrative and operational functions of Wheelock will be merged with corresponding units at BU, and the University will offer Wheelock staff appropriate positions where it is practical to do so.
The endowment of Wheelock College will be integrated into that of Boston University and will be managed by the University’s investment office. Income from Wheelock’s endowment will be dedicated to support the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. All donor restrictions will be honored, and unrestricted funds will also go to support WCEHD.
Administrators from both schools see the pending merger as beneficial to two institutions with deep and long-standing commitments to public education in the city of Boston.
“The combination of the programs of the two schools and the additional resources we plan to deploy gives Boston University the opportunity to commit with renewed energy to our long-standing efforts to promote quality early childhood and K–12 education,” says Brown.
“It’s a very good match,” says Chard, who taught at SED from 1995 to 1997 and was dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development at Southern Methodist University from 2007 to 2016. “Boston University and Wheelock both have a historical focus on the city, and they both have a desire to double down on efforts to support the institutions that are most important to the city: its public schools and social services.”
The Wheelock president says he also sees an opportunity for BU to reenergize some of SED’s legacies, such as its historical focus on special education, while enhancing its focus on college access.
BU administrators see similar benefits. They point out that SED excels in clinical education, doctoral education, and research, while Wheelock, which also has a strong presence in clinical education, excels in early childhood education and continuing teacher education.
Morrison has high praise for Wheelock’s Field Education program, which places students in schools, hospitals, and nonprofit agencies, guaranteeing that all graduates have hands-on, real-world experience, and also for its partnerships that send students into classrooms in Brookline and Boston and provide support for the school districts’ commitments to improve literacy in multilingual urban schools.
For Wheelock, the merger stands to invigorate a venerable Boston institution whose future was imperiled by the same recent economic developments that plague many small private colleges.
Founded in 1888 with the goal of educating the children of immigrants, Wheelock’s current three schools—the School of Education, Child Life and Family Studies, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Social Work, Leadership, and Youth Advocacy—had a total of 1,157 students in 2016, a drop of 39 percent from a decade earlier. Financial statements show losses in 2015 and 2016 and project a fiscal year 2018 loss of $6 million on an operating budget of about $30 million.
“The challenge,” says Chard, “is that small schools like Wheelock have to be all that larger schools are. We have to have all of the same components, but in the past five years the costs of those components have gone up significantly relative to our net tuition.”
In May, the college solicited proposals for mergers from 60 institutions of higher learning across the country. Of the six that responded, Chard says, BU was the best fit, not only for Wheelock, but for education in the city of Boston.