- Hampshire College, whose administrators vowed not to close earlier this year despite leadership turmoil, withering enrollment and an insufficient endowment, on Friday announced fundraising is beating expectations and might allow it to grow its student body again.
- Interim President Ken Rosenthal, who took over in April when then-President Miriam Nelson resigned after drawing protests for recommendations to downsize the college or find a partner, said fundraising is pacing ahead of a goal to raise $7 million by August, New England Public Radio reported.
- However, the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) in May warned that the college is in danger of not meeting standards for accreditation. It will make that determination in November.
Hampshire's early fundraising success, along with the temporary reprieve from its accreditor, are bright spots in what generally has been gloomy news for small colleges. That's especially true in New England, where several have closed amid strong competition for a dwindling group of students.
The problem, however, is nationwide. In response, some colleges are looking to fundraising, with varying results.
Bennett College, a historically black women's liberal arts college in North Carolina, brought in nearly $10 million in donations since December in a bid to keep its accreditation. However, the funds weren't enough to sway its accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Bennett sued SACSCOC to stay accredited while it seeks approval from another accreditor. (Watchdogs have called out SACSCOC's review process as biased against HBCUs, resulting in tougher sanctions for those colleges.)
Other institutions have found success with fundraising. Sweet Briar college gained national attention in 2015 when, facing closure, it rallied alumni in a massive fundraising effort that helped keep its doors open. Since then, it has raised $44 million toward that goal, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
St. John's College is combining two popular strategies for struggling small private colleges: cutting tuition and starting a major fundraising campaign. In May, it reported $200 million in donor commitments toward its $300 million goal.
Hampshire is trying to raise $100 million in five years. To help manage its costs, it will admit a smaller freshman class in the fall of 2019. The school hopes to return to a full freshman class in the fall of 2020.
Fundraising goals may prove challenging, however. Moody's analysts reported in February that private colleges angling to depend more on annual gifts and endowments to cover operations could struggle. It expects giving to slow in 2019. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, voluntary contributions to private institutions rose 6.7%, compared to 8.8% at publics.