August 22. 2013 11:23PM

Name change doesn't help Mount Washington College

New Hampshire Union Leader


Two months after changing the name of Hesser College to Mount Washington College, the Kaplan Higher Education Group, which purchased Hesser in 2000, is closing two of five campuses in New Hampshire.

Mount Washington campuses in Portsmouth and Concord will be shut down by the end of the year, according to Kaplan spokesperson Steven White, resulting in the loss of about 45 jobs across all five campuses and the dislocation of about 380 students enrolled in the Seacoast and state capital locations.

Most of the layoffs will be in operations, admissions and financial aid departments.

White said the closures were made necessary by declining enrollment at the college, which is best known for its business education programs. In the past year, the five-campus operation has seen a drop in the student population of about 20 percent, from 1,850 to 1,450, White said.

"That reality is not unique to Mount Washington College," he said. "A lot of colleges and universities are facing the same thing. We've made this decision to have the least impact on our programs and most importantly our students. The savings that we'll realize by consolidation will enable investment in the programs and campuses in Manchester, Salem and Nashua."

In its last commencement as Hesser College, the school granted more than 900 degrees on May 19, but it is not seeing nearly enough incoming freshmen to offset that size of the graduating class.

The New York Times reported on July 25 that enrollment at post-secondary institutions nationwide is declining after years of growth."College enrollment fell 2 percent in 2012-13, the first significant decline since the 1990s, but nearly all of that drop hit for-profit and community colleges," the newspaper reported. "The college-age population is dropping after more than a decade of sharp growth, and many adults who opted out of a forbidding job market and went back to school during the recession have been drawn back to work by the economic recovery."

Faculty and staff have been notified of the closures, and open houses will be held at the three remaining campuses for students enrolled in Concord and Portsmouth. "We're suggesting they reach out to their academic advisors to discuss their situations," said White.

Many students now enrolled at Portsmouth and Concord will be able to continue their studies and earn their degrees on schedule, without interruption, said White."For the remaining students, who won't be able to complete at Concord or Portsmouth by the end of the year, we're offering a number of options, including completing their studies and earning their degrees at one of the three remaining campuses," he said.Kaplan, a division of the Washington Post Co., is best known for its online offerings. In announcing the name change to Mount Washington College in June, Kaplan also unveiled plans for the college to offer national online-only associate and bachelor degree programs in business administration and information technology.

While adding online offerings, the college has no plans to close the remaining New Hampshire campuses and convert to online across the board, White said. "Hesser, now Mount Washington College, has been a part of Southern New Hampshire for 113 years and counting," he said, "and that will continue."