When A College Closes Its Doors: Reflections of A Newbury College President’s Award Recipient

Tara Strong

December 19, 2018

As a lower income first generation college student, I struggled to believe that I could make it through the college application process. I was a lackluster student in high school. The mediocre grades and disinterest in excelling in the classroom may have stemmed from the notion that I never thought I would actually go to college. It was not a part of my family culture. Sure, the issues at home and the seemingly toxic social culture among my peer group could have also influenced my poor academic decision making. However, I cannot help but wonder, would things have been different in high school if I knew that Newbury College would be there at the finish line waiting for me?

I lived with my mom and sister in a third floor apartment at the time I applied to Newbury. My FAFSA EFC was literally 0. We had no money. I would walk to the library every day after school and attempt to fill out the appropriate paperwork by myself. Despite the hopelessness I carried, I wanted to get out of town. There was always a lingering seed of hope in the back of my mind saying “hey maybe I can pull this off.” That seed of hope was fueled by the people at Newbury picking up the phone every time I would call. Every admissions rep, financial aid counselor, and residence life staff member answered my questions with enthusiasm and general concern each time I called. Admissions even revealed my college acceptance over the phone, knowing I was anxious and antsy about the decision. Before I was even matriculated I had formed very strong relationships at Newbury. This to me, is special. Newbury was very good at calming the anxieties of its students. Newbury held my hand, got me in the door, and gave me my time to shine. They took a big risk on me, and apparently took big risks on many others as well.

This week Newbury College announced that they plan to shut the doors of the college after the spring 2019 semester. At Newbury I became the straight-A student and politically active person I never was in high school. I was the recipient of the President’s Award in 2008. What value does this award hold now? I have spent many hours researching and asking many questions. My degree is still valid but do I have to put (formerly) Newbury College on my application to a PhD program? Will I be overlooked during job searches in higher ed. because of this closure? Should I request copies of my transcripts today in case the files get lost during a transfer? Today I am left with many questions that I realize may never be directly answered. Newbury College was known for accepting a very high number of Pell Grant recipients.  This means that they enrolled high numbers of students from lower income backgrounds.  It seems sad to think that perhaps if we had all come from wealthier families and if the college had a huge endowment, closing the college might not have to happen.

My dream of attending alumni basketball games with my children and convincing them to apply to Newbury will never be actualized. In some ways, it feels like a part of my identity is being erased and a piece of my American Dream is being taken away. Processing this information has been a journey, and I think I will need a lot of time and space to grieve this loss. That is essentially what it is, a loss.  My affection for Newbury College will always be there, even if the building is not.

Tara Strong M.Ed. is a Health Educator at New England College and an Adjunct Psychology Faculty Member at Manchester Community College in New Hampshire. Before completing her Master's degree Tara spent five years in Oakland, California helping to run foster youth specific initiatives as well as developed case management style advising curriculum for after school programs. During graduate school, Tara focused on the matriculation and support for marginalized populations at institutions of higher education.

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