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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chester College facing financial crunch; seeks donations

CHESTER – Fears that financial problems are threatening the future of Chester College of New England have inspired students and faculty to rally around the small liberal arts school.

They say the college is in risk of closing unless at least a half-million dollars is raised in the coming days.

Activists have collected roughly 250 signatures on an online petition, “Save Chester College of New England,” which is posted at www.change.org/petitions. Others are soliciting donations and spreading the word that the school is in financial trouble.

The private school, founded in 1965 as White Pines College, awards bachelor’s degrees in fine arts, graphic design, photography and media arts, creative and professional writing and communication, and interdisciplinary arts.

Those behind the drive also are questioning the leadership of college President Robert A. Baines, a former Manchester mayor and longtime local educator.

“We need management who cares about the well-being of the school and not about the money that they can make by selling it,” reads a statement on the petition website. “With dedicated professors and students, we need a president just as loyal.”

Baines, in a statement issued Tuesday after a meeting with the college community, told students and faculty that administrators have made no decisions about Chester College’s future and that there is “no basis to any rumors that any decisions have been made. … The administration does not know where (the rumors) originated.”

Describing it as “the best meeting – although hard – of my tenure as president,” Baines said trustees plan to review the college’s situation soon after May 1, the date student tuition deposits are due. He said officials have been “vigorously recruiting” students for the next semester and “expect a significant increase in the number of deposits” by May 1.

Baines also hinted in the statement that administrators have discussed with other colleges the possibility of merging or combining some of their programs and exploring other options to “strengthen our position and serve our students. However, our priority has always been to ensure the continuation of the college as an independent entity.”

For more information about the college, visit www.chestercollege.edu.

– DEAN SHALHOUP