SALEM — Plummeting enrollment and a move toward providing more online programs prompted Mount Washington College to announce it will close its campus on Manor Parkway.
The school, formerly known as Hesser College, also will shutter its Nashua campus, spokesman Stephen White said yesterday.
Fifty employees at the two campuses are being laid off and some programs will be discontinued, he said.
The 50 employees represent cuts made across the board, from administrative staff to instructors, he said. The school employs approximately 300 people.
The move affects 200 students at the Salem campus and 340 at the Nashua campus — half of Mount Washington’s total enrollment, White said. The school began notifying them Wednesday, he said.
“All students will be taking their classes at the main campus in Manchester as of Sept. 9,” White said.
Sept. 9 is the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. He said approximately 70 percent of the students should be able to complete their studies by the end of the year.
“Most students should be able to finish what they started in the next couple of weeks or months,” he said.
Mount Washington has operated its Salem campus since 2004. The school offers a wide variety of associate and bachelor degree programs.
The closures come nearly a year after Mount Washington announced it would close its Portsmouth and Concord campuses in December 2013.
Forty-five employees lost their jobs then. It came only a month after Hesser, founded in 1900, announced it would be changing its name to appeal to a broader spectrum of students.
But with the latest announcement, what were once five campuses have been reduced to one. The school has been calling students and sending letters to inform them of the news, White said.
“We are doing everything we can to notify the students and to work with them,” he said.
A 30 percent drop in enrollment in the last few years and the growing popularity of people taking courses online led to the decision, White said.
Mount Washington saw its total enrollment last year drop from 1,850 students to 1,450. That figure has since dropped to 1,090, including 550 students at the Manchester campus, he said.
White said in August that the school decided to focus its efforts on bolstering its three remaining campuses.
“There will be more investment in terms of facilities and more investment in terms of programs,” he said at the time.
He also said consolidating the campuses could help boost enrollment in Salem, Manchester and Nashua. But Salem’s enrollment of approximately 280 students last year continued to drop sharply.
Some students expressed their disappointment with the closures on the school’s Facebook page. Many of the programs are offered at night and attended by people working full- or part-time jobs.
“I’m very disappointed in all the changes and will be receiving my bachelor’s elsewhere,” one student said.
White declined to comment yesterday on whether any improvements had been made at the campuses since then or students’ reaction to the news.
He did say that Mount Washington, purchased in 2000 by Kaplan Inc., has concluded that investing in online programming is more feasible than spending money on infrastructure, such as heating buildings.
As a result, the school is dropping its health and arts and sciences programs, White said. Those include psychology and medical assistant programs.
Part of the decline in enrollment is attributed to a slumping economy in recent years. The rising cost of education has led to lower enrollments across the country, he said.
The school will instead concentrate on its online business and information technology programs, White said. The number of online students was not available.
The cost to take an online program is $200 per credit hour, compared to $375 per credit hour on campus, he said.
It remains to be seen whether Mount Washington students will enroll at other area colleges, including Southern New Hampshire University. SNHU also has a Salem campus.
Gregg Mazzola, spokesman for SNHU, said the school would not actively recruit Mount Washington students, but welcomes them if they decide to enroll.
“We would certainly make our resources available for any students who aren’t able to attend Mount Washington College,” he said.