In a letter to the campus community, Hampshire College President Miriam Nelson said Tuesday that the college is looking to merge with another institution.
Hampshire, a private liberal arts college in Amherst that enrolls about 1,400 students, is hoping to find a long-term partner that can help it achieve a sustainable future, Nelson said. No potential partner has been identified, but Nelson told WGBH News that she's optimistic the college will find a merger partner through an international search.
"Hampshire has a strong identity, and I believe our educational model is something that students are really looking for right now in terms of robot-proofing themselves," she said.
Founded in 1970 as an experiment in alternative education, Hampshire — like many small colleges in the Northeast — has recently struggled financially because of its small endowment and low enrollment. Hampshire's acceptance rate is north of 70 percent, and the college offers steep tuition discounts.
Nelson says administrators are considering whether to even enroll an incoming class this fall.
On Beacon Hill, Governor Charlie Baker lauded Hampshire's merger announcement as proactive and said it underscores the need for legislation he filed last year giving the Board of Higher Education greater authority to monitor the financial health of private schools. The bill was not taken up by lawmakers.
"We'll file that legislation again, but in the meantime the Board has pretty decent tools they've developed administratively to do that kind of monitoring work and I'm sure they're probably talking to Hampshire right now," Baker said.
On Tuesday, the Board is expected consider another proposal that would create an early warning for Massachusetts colleges at risk of closure to protect students and taxpayers.
Rich Doherty, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, says he is surprised at the news.
"These are challenging times for colleges ... public and private alike, so, I think today's announcement from Hampshire was a pretty thoughtful and transparent response to the challenges they see on the horizon," he said.
This article has been updated. Esteban Bustillos reported from Amherst.