New England College to merge with N.H. Institute of Art

  • A “welcome new students” sign is seen outside the Simon Center at New England College in Henniker on Aug. 25, 2017. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor file

  • The Emma B. French Hall at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester is shown. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 5/29/2018 2:17:05 PM

New England College and the New Hampshire Institute of Art are merging, the two schools announced Tuesday.

The move comes as small schools across the Northeast struggle with declining revenues and enrollment because of declining numbers of graduating seniors in the region. But the Henniker-based NEC, a private, not-for-profit liberal arts school with about 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students, has been growing its enrollment and expanding programming.

“The time to talk about opportunities is when you’re in a good place,” said NEC President Michele Perkins.

Likewise, NHIA President Kent Devereaux said that while the Manchester-based private not-for-profit art school had seen its enrollment numbers decline for several years, the school had recently rounded a corner, expanded the number of states from which it drew students, and seen deposits tick upward. The school currently has about 2,000 students.

“We realized that with NEC, we could kind of turbo-charge that,” he said.

The schools haven’t decided what the combined institution will be called yet, although NHIA will be absorbed into NEC, and operate much the same way that business or law schools do within larger colleges and universities. A combined board will oversee the new operation, but its membership structure has not yet been finalized.

Officials with the two schools said the hope is to legally complete the merger by October. Most of next year will be a transition year, Perkins and Devereaux said, with few on-the-ground changes for students, as faculty and administrators decide how to retool and expand programming.

“They will see minor things,” Deveraux said. “It’s going to take us a year to stitch things together and make the right choices.”

There could be cross-registration available for some courses as early as the spring semester, Perkins said. And both emphasized that the merger was intended to provide students at both schools with more options.

“The challenge for us is deciding what to prioritize. Because there are so many opportunities,” she said.

There are no planned reductions in staff at either school at this time, officials said. Rather, NHIA saw the opportunity to save money with increased buying power as part of a larger entity, Devereaux said, and through economies of scale.

In addition to its main Manchester campus, NHIA, which offers graduate and undergraduate degrees, runs a retail and gallery space in downtown Peterborough and operates the Sharon Arts Center.

The plan is to keep all NHIA facilities open for the time being, Devereaux said. But how the Sharon Arts Center, which houses administrative offices, runs community art education programs, and operates gallery space, fits into the new school in the long term will be “an evolving conversation,” he said.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or

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