President’s Letter on Plans for Hampshire’s Future

Last week, Hampshire submitted our progress report to our accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). Hampshire remains a fully accredited college. The progress report was requested by the Commission after the events of last spring to demonstrate that we continue to be in compliance with two of its nine standards: organization and governance, and institutional resources. 

We’ve made great progress in these areas. The college’s leadership is secure and our Board is strong. Together we’re leading a rapid, collaborative community process to reinvent Hampshire’s curriculum and student experience. We are actively recruiting new students for 2020. We’re leading a major fundraising campaign, to be announced in December. And we have sustainable, realistic plans for our operations and financial management.

As we told NECHE, our path forward is ambitious, data-driven, and achievable. The Commission will respond to our report by early December. I am confident in our plans and in Hampshire’s future.

Our plan for financial sustainability

Hampshire is implementing a plan to achieve long-term financial sustainability and rebuild to full enrollment by 2023-2024. Last year’s decision to only admit a small class this fall will affect our operating budgets this year and until 2024, but we will maintain balanced budgets through fundraising, managing our costs, and generating revenue from some of our assets. We will not increase tuition next year, as affirmed by a vote of our Board of Trustees in October, the third year in a row tuition remains unchanged.

Our plan defines financial sustainability as achieving balanced operating budgets, in which predictable revenue from reliable sources exceeds our expenses to deliver our academic experience, while maintaining our campus and meeting all external obligations. The plan entails six elements:

  1. Developing and implementing a reinvented academic program and student experience to increase our attractiveness to students while controlling expenses
  2. Adopting an operating budget for 2019-2020 that is 20% lower than 2018-2019, and 30% lower than 2015-2016
  3. Maintaining the 2019-2020 operating budget as a baseline for future expenditures, adjusting for inflation and enrollment growth
  4. Returning to full enrollment by 2023-2024, at a pace consistent with reasonable enrollment and retention goals
  5. Continuing to attract a diverse population of students who will thrive at Hampshire, and budgeting for continuing modest declines in per student revenue from tuition
  6. Launching a campaign to raise $60 million by June 30, 2024

We are optimistic about meeting our admissions target of 300 new students next fall. Our Admissions Office is actively accepting applications for spring and fall 2020, and interest in Hampshire is high. We have more applicants for spring than we had at the same point in our admissions cycle last year, and fall applications are on pace with past years.

Hampshire will launch a fundraising campaign next month with the goal of raising $60 million in unrestricted operating support by June 30, 2024. We’ve already raised $10.4 million toward that goal. The campaign will be supported by a Campaign Council that includes a variety of leadership groups within the Hampshire community. Ken Burns 71F has committed to continuing to serve as a co-chair.

Our plan to transform our curriculum and student experience

Our innovative work to reinvent the academic program is aimed at recruiting prospective students, making our program more sustainable financially, and transforming higher education. The new vision deepens our commitment to placing questions and projects at the center of every student’s education, organizing our program around questions rather than schools or disciplines or fields of study, enabling more innovation and collaboration across disparate fields, and freeing students to pursue questions never asked before.

Asking great questions demands a suite of complex skills—starting with posing a great question and figuring out how to take a project from idea, to investigation, to concept, to completion; we’re committed to supporting all students in cultivating these entrepreneurial and design skills as they pursue meaningful questions and work across disciplines and specializations.

Finally, we are reorganizing ourselves in ways that reflect this commitment and enable more collaborative work, developing curricular structures that will challenge us to work across areas of specialization and practice transdisciplinary learning in ways that are exciting, relevant, and meaningful. The new model aims to foster more integrative student experiences, build more collaborative opportunities across staff and faculty, and find new opportunities for alums to engage with the college.

Director for Academic Innovation Rachel Conrad is leading the Academic Innovation Planning Group to guide the process of moving from vision to implementation. By the end of the fall semester, the faculty will establish clear outlines for our new curriculum, and soon will begin developing seminars and courses to be offered to our incoming class in fall 2020. Our current students will continue with their current program through graduation, and we’re exploring opportunities for those who wish to take part in the new curriculum.

We’re mindful of the fact that establishing a new student experience impacts members of the staff as well as faculty, and that building the new vision will depend upon the professional expertise of many people across campus. The faculty committed itself to collaborating with staff on implementation, and I want to affirm my commitment that the professional expertise of our employees across the college will be respected and consulted as we operationalize the new vision over the next several years.

Our plan for staffing a quality student experience

We are actively recruiting to fill open positions across campus. The heads of each division are carefully considering staffing needs and are working with me to ensure we’re staffed appropriately to deliver a quality student experience. This includes our Advancement and Admissions Offices, which are rapidly rebuilding and filling key positions at senior and junior levels.

Last week I appointed Tom Dybick as Interim Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer. Tom is former VP for Finance at American International College and was CFO for numerous schools and organizations. Tom and I are working to fill leadership roles in our finance and human resources offices. I am also forming a search committee for a permanent Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer, toward a July 1, 2020 appointment.

I hope you share my confidence in our future. We’re committed to preparing our students to identify and respond to complex problems that have not yet emerged, empowering them to take on jobs and roles not yet imagined, and developing in them the capacity to respond to any challenges the future may bring. I hope you will join us in shaping and supporting our work to launch Hampshire into our next 50 years.

Ed Wingenbach

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