Hampshire University to confess 77 trainees currently approved for fal …


AMHERST — Hampshire College will bring in 77 first-year students in the fall, including 36 admitted for this term who deferred admission for a year and 41 who have already taken early decision.

But Hampshire won’t bring in any more than those students, college spokesman John Courtmanche said, capping a class many on campus see as crucial to Hampshire’s future.

The decision, released Friday night in a campuswide meeting, are different than a potential plan the college’s president announced last month to not admit any students in the fall. And its different than the big first-year class some advocates say Hampshire needs in order to fill its coffers and its campus.

Hampshire will continue looking for what it calls a strategic partner to shoulder some of its financial burden. Times are tough for small liberal arts colleges with small endowments.

The Board also voted not admit any new students for the spring semester of 2020. The college has not yet made a decisoon on the Fall 2020 class.

The decision was expected earlier Friday, at about 3:30 p.m. But the college’s Trustees deliberated longer than expected. Those deliberations took place with Hampshire College students and alumni gathered outside the meeting-room door with a sit-in protest they promised to continue all weekend if necessary.

Alumni who weighed in included author and adventurer Jon Krakauer, who wondered in a New York Times piece if Hampshire’s “soul” would survive combining with a larger institution.

Faced with an uncertain future, Hampshire College announced earlier this month that it was seeking a strategic partner — which could be a college or some other entity — to work with it in the future.

Hampshire College also promised earlier this month the 800-acre campus would not close. But President Miriam E. Nelson did raise the possibility that Hampshire wouldn’t admit a freshman class for the 2019-20 school year, explaining that Hampshire’s self-directed structure might change over the next four years if a partner is found.

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That decision needed to be released by Friday, the college’s early admission deadline.

In the week or so leading up to the decision, the Hampshire board of trustees seemed to strike a more optimistic note.

“We write to the entire Hampshire community today to say we’re confident in Hampshire’s future and in the prospect that we’ll be able to preserve, in any partnership, what we revere about this institution — its singular educational model — while addressing our long-term financial challenges,” trustees wrote in a Jan. 23 letter to the campus community.

Not admitting a freshman class in the fall would eliminate a quarter of the school’s tuition revenue and result in layoffs.

Salman Hameed, associate professor of integrated science and humanities, said those layoffs could be 30 to 50 percent of the school’s faculty and staff. With the announcement coming in February, faculty might be shut out of academic jobs for a year, Hameed said. Colleges and universities generally have application deadlines in November and December for jobs that aren’t open until the following June.

Alumnus Steven Aronstein said the announcement seemed like a concession to critics who wanted a full class of about 350 freshman admitted.

“My cynical take is that they covered themselves by admitting the students they have a signed contract with,” he said. “It’s not enough. They need to admit a full class.”

Hampshire has 108 full-time faculty, an administrative staff of 115 and a total enrollment of 1,321 as of the 2016-17 school year, according to federally mandated data reporting forms found on the college’s website. Total enrollment has been around the 1,300 to 1,400 range for at least the last decade, according to the website.

Hampshire has a $52 million endowment and a balanced budget.

But small colleges fear financial pressures as the number of graduating high school seniors in the region falls, making it harder to attract students.

Green Mountain College will close at the end of the spring 2019 semester, Vermont Public Radio reported, putting some 400 students in search of a new college and 100 faculty and staff out of work.

Pressure at liberal arts colleges is also building as more students are seeking technology or professional courses with a clearer career path.

In New York Times piece, Hampshire College grad Jon Krakauer asks if college’s ‘soul’ would survive partnership

But at Hampshire, 89 percent of grads are offered jobs within six months of graduating and 65 percent go on to earn advanced degrees within 10 years, according to the Hampshire’s website.

The average cost of attendance is more than $65,000 a year. That includes $50,030 in tuition, $13,606 in room and board and books and supplies totaling $1,900.

The average financial aid is $47,673, counting both funds from Hampshire and from the federal government and other sources.

Famous Hampshire grads include documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and actress Lupita Nyong’o.

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