New England College merger with N.H. Institute of Art is official

  • The Manchester campus of the New Hampshire Institute of Arts will become part of New England College under a merger between the two institutions. Courtesy of N.H. Institute of Art

Monitor staff
Published: 1/2/2019 3:44:45 PM

New England College is officially starting to absorb the New Hampshire Institute of Art, which will give the Henniker college a campus extension in Manchester as well as more art-related courses, and expanded course options for art students.

The college said Wednesday that the board of trustees of both schools have given final approval to the merger, which was first announced last year.

“It’s now legal and official,” said New England College President Michele Perkins.

NHIA, which has roots in Manchester dating back to 1898, will continue to operate for the rest of this academic year under a new board of trustees that is subordinate to the New England College board, Perkins said. Students who graduate this year will receive NHIA diplomas.

Over the next few months, more details about the transition will be addressed, Perkins said. These include technical issues, such as incompatible computer systems and academic issues, such as overlapping courses and the fact that NHIA operates on a three-credit system while NEC operates on a four-credit system.

If all goes well, Perkins said, the merger will be completed by July 1 and the Manchester school’s name will change, “probably to Institute of Art and Design at New England College.”

The change will produce a hefty increase in tuition and fees for Manchester students, although not necessarily a large increase in the amount that students actually pay.

NHIA currently charges at least $18,500 for tuition, fees, room and board, while NEC charges $27,700.

Perkins said most NHIA students won’t see a roughly 50 percent increase in costs. “Our tuition is higher but our grants and scholarships are higher, too. Net, students should expect to pay about the same,” Perkins said.

The Institute of Art has about 350 students in undergraduate and a few graduate programs. New England College has about 1,200 students on campus and, like many small private colleges, is pushing to increase the size of its student body in response to challenging economic headwinds.

New England College also has about 1,500 online students. Perkins said this is an example of how the merger will help students in Manchester by expanding opportunities.

“NHIA has no online program. It also has no sports programs,” she said. Even in arts education, Perkins said, NHIA will benefit; she pointed to NEC’s strong theater program, something that NHIA doesn’t offer, and the fact that the Henniker campus is building a new theater.

The merger, she said, will also help students in Henniker, both by expanding arts options and by giving the school a presence in Manchester that includes dorms, which would make it easier to offer internships and residencies in the state’s biggest city.

NHIA owns seven buildings in Manchester throughout the downtown and leases two others.

Perkins said students will not be required to take classes in both Henniker and Manchester at the same time. The two campuses are about a half-an-hour drive apart.

“One of the questions I often get asked is: ‘Will students have to go back and forth?’ The answer is no, that’s simply impractical,” she said.

Colleges in the Northeast are facing difficult economic times because the number of graduating high school seniors in the region is stagnant and likely to decline in coming years. Schools like NEC that are depending upon tuition income rather than large endowments are pushing to increase their enrollment both to increase their income and to cut relative costs through economies of scale.

This is one reason that New Hampshire Institute of Art looked to join a bigger school, Perkins said.

“They have about 350 students – it’s very difficult to stay an institute that size,” she said. “This is a great way for the institute to continue, and to maintain a presence in Manchester.”

The New Hampshire Institute of Art was founded in 1898 as the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences. In 1924, it was certified by the state for four-year programs to prepare high school graduates to teach art.

A $26 million bequest from local arts patron Mary Fuller Russell in the late 1990’s boosted the school and led to an expansion of the campus. In 2011, it received full accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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