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Chester College of New England, a small arts-oriented institution in New Hampshire, announced Friday that it is shutting down.

"After careful consideration and an in-depth exploration into all the options and resources available to us, the Board of Trustees of Chester College of New England has reached the conclusion that our efforts to secure and increase our enrollment can no longer sustain the college. It is with a profound sense of sadness that I report to you that the Board has voted to close Chester College," said a message sent to students and faculty members late Friday by Robert Baines, president of the college, and James Bennett, the board chair.

In April, the college announced that it was in danger of closing due to a deficit of about $750,000. Students and faculty members at the college (whose enrollment last year was 144) rallied to raise money, saying that they believed the college should be saved. But many at the college also criticized the president, who they said had failed to turn around the college.

The economic downturn that started in 2008 has been particularly tough on very small private colleges that lack much in endowment income or national name recognition. Dana College shut down in 2010. Mississippi's Wesley College closed that same year. Lambuth University, in Tennessee, closed last year after losing accreditation.

On Friday, Chester announced that it had reached an agreement with New England College, also in New Hampshire, in which all currently enrolled or admitted Chester students would be able to enroll at New England. Chester students will be assured their current tuition rate, and that all credits they earned at Chester will be recognized by New England.

New England College also announced that it would hire four Chester faculty members for one-year appointments, and would look for positions that might be appropriate for other Chester employees.

Yet another New Hampshire arts institution, New Hampshire Institute of Art, announced that it too would offer admission to all Chester students, with tuition and financial aid to match what students had been told they would receive at Chester. The New Hampshire Institute of Art also announced that it has hired the former heads of Chester's creative writing and photography programs, anticipating increased enrollment from Chester transfers.

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