Mills College deceived students with 'empty promises:' lawsuit

Two former Mills College students are suing the all-women's institution alleging the school "engaged in rampant deception" by merging with Northeastern University, according to a class action suit filed Wednesday in Alameda County.

Willa Cordrey, who had been trying to earn a master's degree in education, and Jenny Varner, who was studying art history, said that they were repeatedly promised Mills would stay open through the spring of 2023 and that their majors would be protected.

Instead, their hopes were dashed and futures put in peril when Mills decided to merge with Northeastern University, the plaintiff's attorneys, Bryan Schwartz Law and Nichols Kaster, contend.

In March 2021, Mills made a surprising announcement, saying it had to close because of dire financial problems and it stopped enrolling new students with plans to give out its last degrees in 2023. 

But then after negotiations, Mills leadership finalized a deal to merge with Northeastern University in Boston and become co-ed, ending the college’s run as a private women’s college.

Both attorneys maintain that Mills College made empty promises to entice students to continue paying to attend the school, and who do not want to "simply continue" their studies somewhere else. 

For example, English majors at Mills are now being told to join the communications program at Northeastern, the suit contends.  

Mills administrators had not yet seen the lawsuit.

But in a statement to KTVU on Thursday, the school said: "Mills College is unequivocally and steadfastly committed to the success of our students."

Administrators stressed that current students who will continue their studies at Mills College at Northeastern University have been assured that they will not pay more to complete their degrees, even in instances when additional time may be required to complete the course work due to different accrediting bodies. 

"Mills College and Northeastern University are working diligently to mitigate any issues that Mills students may encounter as a result of the pending merger of the two institutions," the statement said. "Any delays in this process have been due to different requirements of regional accreditors."

Meanwhile, the two students who filed the suit aren't sticking around. 

Cordrey is trying to find a college to transfer to. Varner is transferring to Lewis & Clark College.