New England College in Henniker works to recruit diverse student body - New England College
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New England College in Henniker works to recruit diverse student body

John Lyons Center Henniker campus

Excerpt from Granite State News Collaborative and NH Press Association published July, 11, 2021.

In a state where colleges struggle to recruit a diverse student body, New England College in Henniker reports that currently 36.2 percent of its 1,135 resident students identify as African American, Hispanic, Asian or more than one race.

Michele Perkins, who has been the college’s president for 14 years, said that at one time people told her the goal of campus diversity in a rural area of the Granite State would be “impossible or very difficult.”

“I didn’t believe it,” she said.

Growth in diversity has come during her tenure, particularly over the last six years as recruitment expanded beyond New England and the mid-Atlantic seaboard and as prospective students who visited campus began to see a more diverse student body.

The school identifies racially diverse students by purchasing demographic data submitted as part of standardized testing and then targets those students for recruitment.

This isn’t unusual in higher education, but New England College makes a point of focusing on students in working class neighborhoods in places such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia and parts of Florida.

“We’ve been doing it for years,” she said. “Persistence will lead to success.”

“We’ve invested a lot in identifying students from all over the country. A lot of them are first-generation college students. Usually, when you are a first-generation student, you have financial needs. We are very generous in our scholarship and grant programs.”

She said the school is in a position financially where it can work to ensure that if a student wants to attend, that student can afford to attend.

“Probably, we are in a financially better shape than some institutions,” she said.

“We are tuition dependent. We don’t have a big endowment, but we’re as generous as we can afford to be.”

Financial assistance was a key for Ty’Aaron Ennis, an African American student who graduated from a charter high school in Boston before coming to New England College.

“NEC offered me a lot more money than what I was being offered at other schools and that’s kind of what drew me here,” he said.

“They covered the majority of the finances. Then I became an RA in my sophomore year and that covered room and board and a meal plan.”

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