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Hampshire College Seeks Partner, Grapples with Future

AMHERST — Citing financial strain, Hampshire College on Tuesday outlined its desire to merge with another educational institution. The school is also evaluating whether to admit a freshman class for the fall. The news came in an e-mail from President Miriam Nelson.

“I’m announcing today our intent to find a long-term partner that can help us achieve a thriving and sustainable future for Hampshire,” she wrote. “With the guidance and passion of Hampshire’s trustees we’ve begun a process to seek a strategic partnership to address the challenges we’ve faced as an underendowed institution, really from our very first days. As we approach our 50th anniversary, and as Hampshire continues to have an impact on students and society, the trustees and I are absolutely determined to find the best way forward.

“As we embark on this process,” she continued, “we’re also carefully considering whether to enroll an incoming class this fall, and will work with the trustees to make that decision before the February 1 admissions notification date. This decision has significant ethical implications, and must take into account the welfare of our prospective students and community as a whole.”

She noted that Hampshire has a balanced budget, its $52 million endowment has performed well, and the success of its unconventional educational model has been confirmed by various data, including ranking among the top 3% of institutions whose students go on to earn a research doctorate. Two-thirds of its graduates earn advanced degrees.

“We’re convinced that seeking a strategic partnership is the right and responsible thing to do,” Nelson said. “And now is the time to do it. We have great resources in our people, in our pedagogy that has had outsize influence on higher education, and in our reputation for imaginative and forward thinking. By moving ahead so forthrightly now, we also have perhaps the most important resource of all — time. We have the time to undertake the awesome, exhilarating responsibility of evolving education at Hampshire.”

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