Hampshire College announces incoming fall class of 15 students

  • Johnson Library Center at Hampshire College, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/8/2019 5:34:47 PM

AMHERST — Hampshire College’s president announced on Wednesday that the school’s incoming fall class will consist of 15 students who have recently paid deposits to reserve their place.

Amid concerns about the college’s financial future, Hampshire’s board of trustees voted in February to accept only a skeleton class of 77 students this fall. That decision resulted in a drastic shrinking of the college, which relies on tuition and fees for close to 90 percent of its revenue. The college recently announced faculty reductions and staff layoffs, and in a letter to campus, interim president Ken Rosenthal said on Wednesday that the college expects to have around 600 students next year — down from 1,175 this year.

“We’re excited that 15 students have reserved a place in our next incoming class,” Rosenthal wrote. “We’re grateful for their trust, and we look forward to welcoming them at Orientation in the fall.”

The 15 students were among the 77 whom the college had either accepted during early admission or accepted the previous year. Hampshire’s trustees decided, however, not to admit a full class as the college sought a “strategic partnership” to keep the school afloat financially.

That decision was met with criticism from many in the Hampshire community, causing turmoil that eventually led to the resignation of the school’s new president and top members of the board of trustees. The board has since voted to pursue independence for the college, and Rosenthal has said he hopes to recruit more students to campus in the spring.

“The Admissions office is working to offer opportunities for visitors to come to campus this summer — a preliminary step with the hope that the restructuring of our financial model, together with our fundraising campaign, will enable us to resume recruitment in the near future,” Rosenthal wrote in his message Wednesday.

Before Hampshire looks forward to next semester, however, the college must demonstrate to its accreditation agency — the New England Commission of Higher Education, or NECHE — why the college should be put on probation or have its accreditation revoked.

Hampshire was re-accredited last March following NECHE’s evaluation, which takes place every 10 years. But last month, NECHE asked the school to submit further information because it “had reason to believe that Hampshire College is not meeting the Commission’s Standards on Organization and Governance and Institutional Resources.” Hampshire officials will meet with NECHE on May 30 to present information about the college’s current state.

Rosenthal addressed that meeting in his letter to campus, saying that college officials are preparing a report to demonstrate that Hampshire is in compliance with all relevant accreditation standards.

“There are many accredited colleges across the country that successfully operate with fewer than 600 students (and the majority of them do not belong to a strong consortium as we do),” Rosenthal wrote. “Our Board is engaged in full support of our fundraising and restructuring, and trustees will gather for the annual Board meeting next week.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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