AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The Fall semester officially begins tomorrow at Hampshire College in Amherst, with just thirteen students making up it's freshman class.
The financially struggling liberal arts school welcomed all students back to campus today, as the administration continues to look for a more certain, sustainable future.
Students, faculty and staff at Hampshire College cheered for the official start of school year.
The fact that they are here, a celebration, considering the future of the school has been tenuous with reported declining enrollment, their accreditation in limbo, and financial restructuring, including rounds of layoffs.
"I came and visited and I said, 'This is my place. This is where I need to be'," freshman Elle Glasse tells us.
Glasse, who's from Austin, Texas, wasn't sure this day would come.
In February, the school considered not having a freshman class.
Then, in February, announced, this Fall, it would only admit the seventy-seven students already accepted under early decision admissions.
"It was definitely a little nerve-wracking, but I was just praying that they would pull through and they did," says Glasse.
Elle is one of only thirteen of the seventy-seven who decided to actually come.
"There was seventy, some early decision students admitted, who were then told, 'Well, we might not be open', and so these thirteen are pretty remarkable. They're persistent despite being, essentially, pushed away and they still came, because they believe in this place," noted Hampshire College President Ed Wingenbach.
Leading today's welcome was Hampshire's new president Ed Wingenbach, who's been on the job since August 6.
He tells Western Mass News, despite exploring possible mergers, the administration remains focused on staying independent.
"I think it became clear to people that, for Hampshire to continue, to do its work, we needed to do it on our own, independently," continued Wingenbach.
Wingenbach says, since January, they've raised $9 million of a $20 million-plus goal, and, among other improvements, have restructured the admissions office.
"We've already had 150 potential students contact us and say, 'I'd like to apply. How do I apply?', so there's interest in Hampshire College. There always has been. We just have to bring those people in," said Wingenbach.
Elle Glasse is remaining positive..
"And I know that this is where I want to go to school and, if something happens, at least I can say I had this amount of time here," added Glasse.
Hampshire's president reporting more progress.
They anticipated some returning students would opt out.
However, he says, while they predicted total enrollment to be about 600 this Fall semester, it is closer to 720.
In the meantime, the New England Commission of Higher Education, the Accreditation Commission, is giving Hampshire College until November to continue to make progress on what they call long-term sustainability.