The New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) has issued a public Notation about Hampshire’s accreditation status
Following last week’s joint press release from the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and Hampshire College, announcing that the Commission had issued a public Notation about Hampshire’s accreditation status, the College has received a number of questions. Our responses are below, and also feel free to email additional questions to Beth Ward, Secretary of the College and Accreditation Liaison Officer, at email@example.com.
Updated June 20, 2019
A Notation means that the Commission has determined it should alert the public that an institution is in danger of being found to not meet one or more of its Standards for Accreditation. In Hampshire’s case, NECHE’s concerns have to do with two standards: Organization and Governance and Institutional Resources. We will submit a report to the Commission on November 1, and they will vote whether we remain in compliance.
We feel confident that we can respond successfully to the Commission’s expectations for compliance and retain Hampshire’s accredited status. Here is how we are addressing NECHE’s concerns:
Standard on Organization and Governance
• A presidential search committee convened by the Board of Trustees is engaged in an expedited search to identify Hampshire’s next president. The applicant pool is promising and we hope to name a new president before the end of the summer. In the meantime, Interim President Ken Rosenthal will stay until the new leadership is in place.
• Beginning July 1, the Board will have at least 21 voting members, and it will consider voting in new trustees in the coming weeks.
• The Board has a robust orientation program for new trustees and we have recently strengthened the information we provide around trustee expectations and responsibilities.
Standard on Institutional Resources
• Hampshire’s highest priority is to ensure we uphold our commitment to our current students. The divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Life have reconfigured staffing and programming to make sure that this is the case. The support of our partners in the Five Colleges is essential to our success, as it has been for 50+ years. Hampshire is committed to operating successfully as a smaller college while we restructure and rebuild for a sustainable future.
• Hampshire’s fundraising has been proceeding at a record pace, with over $9 million in gifts and multi-year pledges in just three months. We are also well ahead of our fundraising goal for June 30.
• We have aggressive fundraising targets for the next five years — starting with a goal of $20 million by June 30, 2020 — and we have equally aggressive plans to meet them.
• We are developing a plan for relaunching our admissions office to begin admitting students for fall 2020.
Probation is a public status signifying that NECHE has found that an institution has failed to meet one or more Standards for Accreditation, but also believes that the problems may be resolvable. Hampshire is doing everything possible to address the concerns expressed in the Commission’s Notation and feels confident about doing so in advance of the November vote. But, if the College were to be placed on probation, it is important to know that an institution remains accredited and federal financial aid is not affected while the College works to remedy the Commission’s concerns.
If NECHE determines that an institution’s conditions are not improving or are deteriorating, then accreditation could be withdrawn. We do not expect that Hampshire will be put on probation or lose accreditation, but we have been developing contingency plans to make sure that, even in the worst case, our students’ education will continue toward a degree.
To this end, we have been working on a “teach-out” plan in consultation with NECHE and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. A teach-out plan is a written agreement between institutions that provides a reasonable opportunity for affected students to complete their program of study and earn their degree at another institution should that be necessary. In Hampshire’s case, this means that we will have plans to graduate our current Division III students with a Hampshire degree, and facilitate transfer agreements with other nearby institutions for our Division I and II students.
NECHE’s focus is on quality and accountability, and the protection of students’ interests. Even in cases when the Commission withdraws accreditation, it appears their practice is to make the effective date some months later, to allow an institution sufficient time to ensure that students are able to graduate from an accredited institution.
For more information on the NECHE public Notation email Beth Ward, Secretary of the College and Accreditation Liaison Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.