The colleges that won’t die

Advocates rise up to save imperiled schools whose survival they say is about more than just prestige.

When Alex Robinson told relatives and friends he was considering going to Hampshire College, “every single person was, like, ‘Oh, isn’t that the school that’s shutting down?’ ”

But for Robinson, who attended an art high school in New York, “It was definitely worth the risk” to enroll in the fall at this small college with its alternative curriculum of self-directed learning and no grades or majors — shaky though its fate might seem. “I felt like I would be happy here.”

Hampshire had, after all, announced that it was searching for a merger partner as it grappled with grim financial and enrollment projections. In 2020, it accepted no new students at all, and its future remained uncertain.

As colleges continue to close or merge — more than 60 in the last five years, and 14 just since the start of the pandemic — a growing chorus of voices is raising alarms that this is taking more than just an emotional and economic toll on students, alumni, employees and communities.

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