Pine Manor College has come a long way from its 1911 origins as a women’s junior college. Now the scenic Chestnut Hill campus is home to 461 undergraduates from 23 states and 15 countries.

College President Tom O’Reilly explains that the school initially served women, who were an underrepresented group in the early 20th century. Now, they support an even broader underserved community. Eighty-five percent of Pine Manor residents are students of color, and the same percentage represents the first generation in their family to attend college.

“Pine Manor College intentionally seeks out college-capable students, not college-ready students,” says O’Reilly. “Most students have gaps, whether it be social, financial or academic. We see what we can do to bridge that gap.”

Financial aid is one of the most significant ways the college supports incoming students. O’Reilly says it’s a three-part breakdown. The school will pay for a third of tuition, ask students to borrow a third of tuition and help connect students to work opportunities to earn the last third. O’Reilly says their goal is to have students graduate with a debt smaller than their first year’s salary. These programs allow disadvantaged students to have the private college attention and experience without the crippling debt.

School support continues after graduation. “Last year’s class was 100 percent employed or in grad school within six months of graduation,” reports O’Reilly.

He attributes this success both to the one-on-one education style of Pine Manor and to the real-life experience they provide their students. Each class has an experiential component, and in their final year, students are connected with internships, which not only provide real-world experience but frequently lead to full-time jobs.

Pine Manor is Brookline’s best-kept secret. According to the 2015 United States Census, 81 percent of Brookline residents are Caucasian, and the median income rests around $95,518 annually. Pine Manor supports the opposite end of the spectrum, the students who, without the college’s supportive infrastructure, might not otherwise have the opportunity to seek higher education.

In recent weeks Pine Manor has been embroiled in a conflict with the Town of Brookline. After years of analyzing sites in search of a new location for the ninth Brookline public elementary school, the town has landed on three options. One of those options is to forcibly acquire seven acres of land from Pine Manor via eminent domain.

At a public hearing at Brookline High School on Tuesday, Pine Manor faculty, students, and alumni argued against the seizure of their property, while some Brookline parents argued for the construction of the school on Pine Manor’s campus.
The land Brookline is looking to acquire sits right at the front of the Pine Manor property, at the entrance of the school. It is also the site where the college holds its annual graduation ceremonies.

No decision has been made, but both sides are willing to go down fighting. The edge of the Pine Manor campus is lined with photos of students holding written explanations of their experience in the school. A quote from Kelly DeFao reads, “Here we value our similarities, celebrate our differences and truly practice community inclusiveness. PMC is my home.”

by Celina Colby