Hampshire College retains accreditation 

  • The sign at the entrance of Hampshire College in Amherst. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/24/2019 4:30:45 PM

AMHERST – Hampshire College has gained a stronger foothold in its efforts to turnaround a dire financial situation by retaining its accreditation.

The New England Commission of Higher Education announced on Saturday that the college has made progress towards its financial viability following the hiring of President Ed Wingenbach and noted improvements with governing board practices and plans for enrollment and fundraising. The college faced the possibility of having its accreditation placed on probation or withdrawn before a meeting between NECHE and Hampshire College on Friday in which the commission voted to continue Hampshire’s accreditation.

“Upholding our accreditation is a critical step toward securing a long future for Hampshire College,” Wingenbach, who was named president in July, said in a statement. “As we told NECHE, we see our path forward as ambitious, data-driven, and achievable.”

The accreditation board lifted a warning notice on Hampshire’s governance practices, yet has asked the college for a full progress report in two years as it is still concerned over the college’s financial resources.

Wingenbach said he expects Saturday’s announcement to further galvanize fundraising efforts from Hampshire’s alumni and supporters.

“We are very optimistic about what the future will bring,” Wingenbach said.

In May, NECHE had issued a public notice that the college was in danger of being found in violation of the agency’s standards, though it deferred a formal judgment until November.

A team of Hampshire College administrators and trustees, including Wingenbach and Board Chairman Luis Hernandez, presented a progress report and a five-year plan that convinced the board to continue its accreditation, which Hampshire first received in 1974.

On Dec. 3, Hampshire will launch a fundraising campaign to raise $60 million by 2024, a campaign that has already raised $10.7 million, the college said. In November, the college received more than $1 million in new contributions and commitments, according to school officials.

Although in the spring Hampshire leadership decided to only admit a small class this fall, thus affecting this year’s operating budget, the college said it is rebuilding towards full enrollment. Hampshire leadership has projected student enrollment to remain between 700 to 800 for the next three years with a goal of enrollment over 1,000.

This fall, Hampshire welcomed a class of 12 students who had been accepted prior to the announcement of the school’s financial difficulties.

Hampshire said it is currently developing plans to reinvent its education model that focuses on project-based learning, addressing “big challenges” facing the future, and a student co-designed curriculum.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com

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