MANCHESTER — Southern New Hampshire University is exploring a merger with the New Hampshire Institute of Art — a move that would add art programs at SNHU and help with student recruitment at the art institute, officials said Thursday.
A merger “would instantly expand SNHU’s offerings in the arts and help fill out our curriculum,” SNHU President Paul LeBlanc told faculty and staff in a memo Thursday. “It would give us a greater downtown presence. Some of its programs might do well online.”
The schools set a Sept. 1 deadline for a decision.
The institute’s name would be retained, with the addition of “The Arts College of Southern New Hampshire” used in marketing materials, LeBlanc said in an interview.
The boards of both schools this week signed a memorandum of understanding “that signals our mutual and good faith effort toward an eventual merger,” LeBlanc’s memo said. The coming weeks will include discussions among faculty and staff members regarding the merits of a merger, he said.
SNHU would use its “national brand” to “leverage our marketing muscle and increase their enrollments,” LeBlanc said.“Our goal is not to make the institute look like SNHU,” he said. “We’re very confident it would hold on to its identity and culture.”He said he would expect the institute to be a “separate and semi-autonomous unit under the university’s umbrella.”
“We would seek their guidance and wisdom (from the art faculty) on the question of how do we infuse creativity in a wide range of majors,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc and Reilly said they wouldn’t expect the merger to result in staff layoffs, despite merging some back-office operations, such as purchasing, billing and financial aid.
SNHU counts about 40,000 students overall, including its online operations, more than double two years ago. The New Hampshire Institute of Art has about 470 students. SNHU has about 1,000 employees working downtown, either in the Millyard or at 1230 Elm St. Its main campus straddles the Manchester-Hooksett line.
Both schools have seen growth in enrollments and also in adding buildings to their respective campuses in recent years.
Thomas Horgan, president and CEO of New Hampshire College & University Council in Concord, said it was an intriguing match.
“It’s an exciting concept to merge a large private institution that has a growing campus, a traditional campus in Manchester, and an exploding online presence with a small quality arts school,” Horgan said. SNHU and the art institute are among the council’s members.
Joe Reilly, who chairs the art institute’s board of trustees, said a merger would provide the art students access to career placement services and facilities on the SNHU campus, such as the pool and gym.
LeBlanc traced the concept of a merger to an April 23 discussion on higher education with Howard Brodsky, a member of the board of trustees for SNHU and the institute.
“We stumbled into this idea,” LeBlanc said.