In reference to Hampshire announcing January 15, 2019 its intent to find a long-term partner to achieve a thriving and sustainable future
You’ve sent a mixed message, that Hampshire’s position is dire enough that we need a partner, yet we’re in the black and have a strong endowment. Which is it?
Hampshire is in the black this year, but the difference between having our books balanced and our running a deficit is gifts that were made to the college by our donors and Board of Trustees, and a one-time extraordinary dividend from our endowment. Obviously, those aren’t sustainable. We’ve always run lean and always been underfunded. But it’s unsustainable for us to continue living the equivalent of paycheck to paycheck. Having our annual budget come from tuition and contributions for operating expenses has made us vulnerable, and that’s why we’re seeking a partner now.
But what about the endowment?
Our endowment has performed well, but it’s comparatively small, and we’re not permitted to have it cover annual operating expenses. The one-time extraordinary dividend that helped us balance our books this year is just that: one-time. Unfortunately, this isn’t like a household where you can use savings to cover living expenses, if needed. Most of the endowment is restricted to defined purposes.
So which is it? Is Hampshire healthy financially, or are we broke?
We are, for 2019, in a sustainable position, but we won’t be next year and thereafter unless we have additional significant contributions, and of course we can’t count on them. We can’t look faculty, staff, students, parents, and alums in the eye and say we know we’ll be fine for the next several years because absent contributions, such as those made by our trustees, we won’t be. It’s for this reason we’re wisely seeking a partner now, before we run a deficit and our financial situation deteriorates.
What “external headwinds” are Hampshire and other colleges facing?
Colleges are facing steep declines in the college-age population, a downward push on tuition, and intense competition to attract and enroll students, including through merit aid incentives. The pressures on small colleges with limited endowments are enormous, putting many of them across the country in a difficult place. Some have announced they have closed, partnered, or merged, as widely reported by the media, and it’s expected that others will follow suit.
Why is the Board voting on whether to admit a class in fall 2019? And why announce that during the key admissions season?
The decision whether or not to admit students in fall 2019 is a serious one. The Board is considering it with great care, taking into account state regulatory expectations and moral factors. President Nelson has been speaking with the state Department of Education, the Attorney General’s office, the New England Commission on Higher Education (our accreditors), and others, and it’s clear that the regulatory environment in Massachusetts is different today than it was even two or three years ago. In enrolling new students into a four-year program, a college makes a promise to each student to teach them in the way that it advertised in its admissions materials. We must be confident we’re able to teach them through for four years. The Board is weighing carefully their decision, which will be made by the February 1 admissions notification date.
Who serves on Hampshire’s Board of Trustees?
The Board has 29 voting members. Twenty-one are alums from all decades and a range of educational concentrations and professions. A quarter of trustees are current or past parents of Hampshire alums. On the board are a faculty trustee, staff trustee, student trustee, all of them equal voting members. There is also a non-voting student trustee elect. The board is diverse, and focused, always, on advancing Hampshire’s values and mission, educational model, and long-term success.
What are the Board’s responsibilities?
The Board of Trustees has fiduciary responsibility for the institution and is responsible for upholding the integrity of Hampshire’s mission, educational quality, and reputation.
What is Hampshire telling admitted and prospective students?
Until a decision on accepting a fall 2019 class is made, we’re processing applications as usual. Students who are missing documentation can still submit materials to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants may contact the Office of Admissions at 413.559.5471 or email email@example.com.
If I applied and enrolled under the Early Decision I plan, am I still bound to attend?
No. If you want to break that commitment and apply to other schools, we encourage you to do so. If you need a written note for your application, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I decide not to come, are you providing a deposit refund?
Yes. Anyone interested in a deposit refund can call the Office of Admissions at 413.559.5471 or email email@example.com.
What’s the connection between the Visioning Project announced last fall and this week’s news of Hampshire looking for a long-term strategic partner?
President Miriam Nelson began the fall semester engaging the Hampshire community on campus and around the country in discussions on how to bring about a thriving future for Hampshire. The College announced a Visioning Project to encourage bold thinking around Hampshire’s future, in advance of our 50th anniversary in 2020. The president and the Board determined that in the visioning efforts, some core principles would be adhered to, key among them to: keep the interests of students, staff, and faculty at the forefront; preserve our reputation and what is best about Hampshire; advance our educational model; and consider the interests of the Amherst and Pioneer Valley communities. As engagements were ongoing—staff-faculty assemblies, student outreach, letters to campus, and outreach to alums—President Nelson was conferring with higher education and industry leaders to hear their thoughts and their experiences with various approaches to visioning efforts. It became increasingly clear to the president and the Board that a long-term partnership is the most viable strategic option for Hampshire, and that one of the great advantages Hampshire has is the time to negotiate from the strongest position possible.
Why is President Nelson expressing optimism about finding a long-term partner?
Hampshire is widely respected for its pedagogy, and has an exceptional reputation as a forward-thinking leader in higher education. Tuesday’s announcement has led to even more discussions for President Nelson about possible opportunities for long-term partnerships.
What’s the timeline for identifying a long-term partner and implementing any transition?
Hampshire hopes to have a partner identified by this June, and then work with our college community and our partner on a transition plan that will begin immediately thereafter and continue through the college’s 50th anniversary in June 2020.
What will happen to Hampshire’s educational model?
Hampshire’s “graduate school model” of undergraduate education is our greatest strength and differentiator in the higher education marketplace. Hampshire’s student-driven, inquiry-based, interdisciplinary program is more relevant today than ever for “robot-proofing” the next generation of students and preparing them for jobs and professions that don’t yet exist. We must advance the College's singular pedagogy and make it more accessible to a wider range of students.
What support resources are available for employees and students?
Employees: We encourage employees to use the employee assistance program, the confidential, free service available to all employees around-the-clock, that provides access to counseling, health, and wellness resources as well as financial consultation and referrals. Call 800.828.6025. Employees with questions about benefits, tuition benefits, unemployment benefits, and similar concerns should contact Human Resources at 413.559.5605. If we need additional resources we’ll identify them and make them available.
Students: Current students and parents with questions about residence and student life can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions about academics: email@example.com. For admissions: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413.559.5471. Students are encouraged to work with mentors and advisors and, as needed, to share their concerns and seek guidance on additional resources. We’ll work with students to support them and guide their academic paths and outcomes.
Will Hampshire support all current students beyond this semester, and graduate them?
It is our intention to create a path for every current student to complete their degree on their current schedule. We’re pursuing options for a strategic partnership that will help us further define what the future academic trajectories of all of our current students will look like. We’re working to ensure that current students have the support, guidance, and resources they need to follow their academic path, including advisement and completion of their Division III projects. Academic deans, including the dean of advising and the deans from all five schools, are working to ensure that each student’s education will continue uninterrupted by faculty and staff changes. Hampshire is also committed to global educational opportunities for our students. The Global Education Office continues to support all students studying abroad in spring 2019, either through Exchange or Field Study, and will run the GEO short-term field courses for summer 2019. Students considering off-campus study for fall 2019 and beyond should consult the Global Education Office and their academic committee for possible options.
Does this announcement impact financial aid for current students?
There will be no change to the current financial aid resources for returning students this spring. Students can apply for aid for the 2019-2020 academic year using the FAFSA and CSS Profile. They should check the Hub on Hampshire’s website for a list of documents specific to their situation. The due date is May 1, 2019. Some students might see a change to aid based on changes in their family’s income, assets, or number of family members enrolled in college, as reported on the FAFSA and CSS Profile. We’re unsure as of this date if there may be other conditions under which we change our financial aid packages. We’ll know more this spring. Financial aid staff are available to answer questions from students and parents. Families should call our main number: 413.559.5484. In addition, work-study jobs will remain available.
How is the college supporting current students who want to transfer?
Students who wish to transfer should discuss their plans with their advisor and a dean in the Center for Academic Support and Advising. They’ll receive personalized support to address their concerns and to help them understand the process.
Will a partnership affect faculty and staff employment?
It's probable that a new partnership and changes in enrollment will affect our current staffing. We care deeply for our employees and are committed to a process where all employees are supported through any transition, and where decisions are predicated on respect, dignity, and appreciation for people’s wellbeing. We can’t anticipate the exact impacts on employment and understand how unsettling this can be. It’s our intention to keep staff and faculty engaged and updated as the process unfolds. Potential employment decisions affecting faculty will depend on academic needs and will be led by the Dean of Faculty office in consultation with the deans and senior leadership. Decisions affecting staff will be made by senior leadership in consultation with Human Resources, and will be discussed with each employee as decisions unfold. In the near-term, employees with questions about benefits, tuition benefits, unemployment benefits, and similar concerns can contact Human Resources. The College plans to offer more training sessions on organizational change.
What does this mean for Hampshire’s 50th anniversary celebration in June 2020?
The announcement of our intention to find a long-term partner is being made in the context of Hampshire's 50th anniversary in June 2020. This will be a milestone for the College, a time to celebrate our history as we embark on our next 50 years.