MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- Southern New Hampshire University and the New Hampshire Institute of Art are considering a merger, according to a memo sent Thursday from SNHU's president to faculty and staff.
The memo said merger talks have been at the exploratory level and are now moving to the next phase to involve faculty and staff at both institutions.
"A merger with NHIA would instantly expand SNHU's offerings in the arts and help fill out our curriculum," President Paul LeBlanc wrote. "It would give us a greater downtown presence. Some of (NHIA's) programs might do well online. NHIA would immediately benefit from our marketing and recruitment muscle, a broader range of curricular offerings for its students, as well as access to our facilities."
The institutions have signed a memorandum of understanding to work toward an eventual merger and hope to have a final decision by Sept. 1.
NHIA Board of Trustees Chairman Joe Reilly said post-secondary education is facing economic pressures and undergoing change. He said a merger could benefit students, faculty and the community.
NHIA was established in 1898 and offers bachelor's and master's degrees in fine arts, and a master's in art education. It offers programs in ceramics, creative writing, graphic design, illustration, interdisciplinary arts, fine arts, photography, and arts education. It has about 470 students and 20 full-time faculty members.
SNHU, which has a strong online education program, offers 180 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Possible names for NHIA after a merger include The New Hampshire Arts Institute and The Arts College of Southern New Hampshire University.
LeBlanc said if the merger goes forward, the next year will be spent planning.
A merger would likely combine back-office functions such as purchasing, financial aid and billing.