Massachusetts Higher Ed Commissioner Surprised By Hampshire College Troubles

Jan 23, 2019

The Commissioner of Higher Education for Massachusetts said he was surprised to hear about anticipated financial difficulties at Hampshire College.

The college announced last week that it's looking for a "strategic partner" to help ensure its future

Carlos Santiago said Hampshire did the right thing in letting higher education officials know about its issues and plans going forward.

Santiago said the heads-up will help the state be ready for what may happen next.

"Should there be a development that might negatively impact students, we can help them remedy the situation, and get students transferred, if necessary, and insure that they don't lose the credits they've earned, and that they can go into majors they've already started, and a wide variety of things that we think students need some support with," Santiago said.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education is developing a plan to proactively identify small colleges in the state that are struggling financially, with an eye toward protecting students.

"We certainly are seeing more institutions with fragile financial situations," Santiago said. "In the last five years, we have been involved in over 17 closures, consolidations and mergers, which is a pretty significant number."

One of the most noteable closures was that of Mount Ida College in Newton. Officials there faced criticism  for giving students only a few weeks' notice that it was closing. That created issues for current and future students who had to look for a new school. The campus was purchased by UMass Amherst.

Also, Newbury College in Brookline has announced it will also be closing this spring

As for Hampshire College, amid its shaky financial forecast, it is also considering whether to admit a new class of students this fall — something school officials say will be decided by the start of February.