Accreditation body approves of Hampshire College’s ‘openness’

  • The Cole Science Center on the Hampshire College campus. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/19/2019 8:00:09 PM

AMHERST — Hampshire College’s disclosure of its financial challenges and need to seek a partner has been praised by the body that accredits small colleges in New England.

The New England Commission on Higher Education issued a statement this week supporting how Hampshire is handling future changes.

“The commission appreciates the openness with which the college has undertaken the process of seeking a partner and the care it is taking to keep the interests of current and prospective students foremost in mind,” the statement reads.

The commission’s statement comes after Hampshire President Miriam “Mim” Nelson announced Jan. 15 that the college would be looking for a partner to maintain its high-quality education. At the same time, Nelson said the college was considering not admitting a first-year class, a decision the trustees made Feb. 1.

Barbara Brittingham, president of the commission, said Tuesday that similar statements related to colleges and universities are issued periodically.

“It’s general information for the public,” Brittingham said.

At least every 10 years, almost all colleges and universities in the six New England states are closely examined as a way to make sure their quality of education passes muster with the U.S. Secretary of Education. Brittingham said the commission essentially acts as the gatekeeper to $6 to $7 billion in federal aid annually.

Last March, the commission accepted Hampshire’ s comprehensive evaluation, and in May the commission concluded this evaluation, citing several strengths in the college’s “mission which serves as a ‘powerful, unifying imperative,’ a board of trustees characterized by an ‘uncommon degree of commitment,’ a focus on student-centered learning, and its successful, participatory planning process.”

The commission’s statement also observes that in its self-study, the college was candid about its financial challenges, because of its dependence on tuition, and the enrollment difficulties faced by many small colleges.

“Hampshire’s willingness to forthrightly address these issues is central to its continuing accreditation,” the statement reads.

The commission wants a report in spring 2019 focusing on several areas where progress is needed, including in finances and enrollment.

Brittingham said the commission looks forward to working with Nelson and preserving Hampshire’s innovative spirit and educational mission.

“Hampshire really has been in good communication with us,” Brittingham said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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