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Hampshire College Warns New Class Of Changes, Uncertainty

A sign at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Diane Lederman
The Republican / Masslive.com/photos
A sign at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Hampshire College is alerting potential incoming students about changes starting this fall. The school continues to search for "a strategic partner" amid a gloomy financial forecast.

In a letter from Hampshire to 77 people who have been accepted to the college, the school warns that new students are only guaranteed enrollment through the fall semester.

"Accordingly, we’re not able to assure you that any baccalaureate degree you may earn would be issued by Hampshire College, as we’re seeking to affiliate or merge with another institution and that institution will likely control how any diploma will be awarded and by what entity," the letter reads.

Hampshire also cautioned that some programs such as clubs, sports and study abroad could be reduced or cut, and it foreshadowed serious cuts to faculty.

Hampshire College letter to... by on Scribd

"Since we're talking to potential partners, and those talks are continuing, we felt we had to lay out some possible scenarios for an uncertain future," said John Courtemanche, a college spokesman.

Last week, Hampshire's board decided to admit only students who committed to the school via early decision, or those who were accepted last year but decided to hold off on starting school.

The decision to limit fall enrollment concerned some alumni. In particular, the idea of faculty layoffs worried Meghan Long, a 2006 Hampshire graduate.

"I can't imagine if someone was in their second or third year and had an advisor that they'd grown really close to and was part of their academic process, if that person gets laid off, what are they going to do?" Long said.

Jason Cilo, a 1993 Hamshire graduate, said the decision to admit a small class is better than the worst-case scenario, but not as good as the best case.

"I think they had to admit some sort of a class in order to stave off what I think many people feel is a kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy once word gets out that a college is struggling," Cilo said. "I think the admission of any class is a good sign."

Cilo said he appreciated protests by some on the Hampshire campus.

"I'm...heartened by the reaction of the current students and many of the faculty and staff, who have rallied around the school and pressed the administration for answers in a very Hampshire way," Cilo said.

Hamnpshire has so far been mum on a list of potential partners. But a UMass Amherst spokesman said the university and Hampshire have had preliminary conversations about a "deeper collaboration."

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