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Colleges In Boston Area Sharing Facilities, Faculties To Save Money

April 18, 1992

BOSTON (AP) _ Call it the University of Greater Boston.

Pinched by the recession, the area’s colleges and universities are shedding decades - in some cases, centuries - of independence and collaborating to cut costs.

″These days, universities are much more willing to get together,″ said John Curry, president of Northeastern University. ″There’s much more willingness to open avenues of communication.″

The presidents of 50 Massachusetts schools met in private last month to discuss cooperation. In their first foray, 16 agreed to sponsor a study into whether campus health care services could be shared.

″It’s small, but it could lead to big things,″ said William F. Glavin, president of Babson College in Wellesley and a former Xerox Corp. executive. ″Now that we’ve sort of broken the ice, I think there’s a real opportunity for this.″

Among the 61 colleges and universities in Boston and its suburbs, current talks could result in joint purchasing arrangements, shared athletic fields and common day-care centers.

″We can’t afford not to do this,″ Glavin said. ″The economic times have proven that.″

Babson and Brandeis University in Waltham plan a major joint graduate program specializing in export business.

Babson and Wellesley College may split the cost of shuttle buses from their campuses to Boston trolleys. Wellesley and Brandeis swapped philosophy professors this year. Brandeis students can take business courses at Bentley College, also in Waltham, and Bentley students can study languages at Brandeis.

Wheelock and Simmons colleges plan to share the staging area for their commencements. Northeastern may use Boston University’s football stadium for home games. Northeastern and the Wentworth Institute of Technology may develop common softball and soccer fields on a site between their campuses.

″Obviously, most colleges and universities have had to face budget reductions and this is a pro-active way to share resources and cut costs,″ said Carol Leary, Simmons administrative vice president.

Two area library consortiums are arranging for their member schools to share the cost of expensive scientific journals. Along with local hospitals, several colleges and universities in Boston’s Fenway area share day care and security and are contemplating a joint health center.

Public colleges and universities also have begun to phase out duplicated programs and allow their students to cross-register.

Roxbury, Bunker Hill and Massachusetts Bay community colleges now share 13 programs. A controversial proposal would combine the three schools into one community college district.

″We clearly recognize more and more the need to share resources,″ said George Luoto, dean for management and liberal arts at Massachusetts Bay.

Critics wonder why it’s taken so long.

″It amazes me,″ said Monte Shepler, president and chief executive officer of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, a 12- college collaborative established 25 years ago. ″You’ve got the perfect environment for it.

″You’ve got institutions that are in close geographic proximity. And you can do things better, more efficiently and cheaper than if you do it on your own.″

Local university officials responded to this by saying scheduling problems make cooperation difficult.

So does institutional pride.

″It’s hard enough within your own university to get people talking,″ said Northeastern’s Curry. ″But imaginative people will find ways to work these things out.″

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