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N.H. college mails refunds after canceling semester

Lebanon College

JOHN PHELAN VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Lebanon College

Students enrolled for the fall semester at New Hampshire’s tiny Lebanon College will get tuition refunds, a top official said today, as the school calls off courses and amid questions about its future.

The school’s announcement this week came just days before the semester was set to begin, and President Ron Biron said the school will help students find ways to complete their degrees — possibly by working through other area institutions.

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Biron said in an email that the 58-year-old school mailed refunds Tuesday when it made the announcement that it would shut down for the fall.

The private, nonprofit school, which offers associate degrees and certificate programs, follows a model incorporated by many community colleges. It is not listed as part of New Hampshire’s statewide community college system.

According to the website for Lebanon, N.H., which is on the Vermont border just over an hour northwest of Manchester, the school started in 1956 with a focus on job training amid changes in the local textile industry.

At one point in the 1980s, Lebanon College had more than 1,000 students, but by the fall 2012 semester enrollment had fallen to 150. With so few students, officials said, it’s not feasible to continue offering classes.

Biron cited a number of factors that may have contributed to the decline: fewer students working on associates degrees, more online programs, and the increasing pressure of debt on students.

“Lebanon College has been an important asset in the Upper Valley for over fifty years,” university chairman Arthur Gardiner said in a statment announcing the suspension of fall classes. “We are distressed that we have no other option.”

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