DWC won't morph into ITT, president says

You’ve probably seen commercials for ITT Tech, even though the closest campus is Woburn, Mass.

They feature young actors tinkering with computers, looking into microscopes or dusting for fingerprints. The wording is cautious – the ads say graduates may be ready to pursue entry-level careers in fields like IT or criminal justice.

Unlike Nashua’s Daniel Webster College, which ITT Educational Services is poised to buy, the chain of schools operates on a for-profit basis and specializes in two-year programs.

But Robert “Skip” Myers, president of Daniel Webster College, wants to make it clear that the sale will not transform Daniel Webster into another ITT.

He issued an e-mail clarification to students, faculty and alumni Thursday evening, the day the sale was announced.

“Daniel Webster College is not becoming ITT Technical Institute,” wrote Myers, president of the college since 2005. “Daniel Webster College remains just that – you will not see ITT on campus or on our materials.”

The sale, still subject to regulatory and legal approval, makes Daniel Webster a wholly owned subsidiary of ITT Educational Services, the company that owns and runs ITT Tech schools.

The goal, according to Myers, is to keep the two brands distinct, but to eventually expand the Daniel Webster brand into a regional and then national chain of four-year schools.

Immediate plans call for an influx of cash to debt-strapped Daniel Webster, including infrastructure improvements. And, of course, the college would give up its nonprofit status.

Eventually, the name will be tweaked to Daniel Webster University. But ITT says it will keep the current staff and curriculum.

In issuing his clarification, Myers said a number of students, staff and alumni raised questions after the sale was announced about what would happen to the value of a Daniel Webster degree.

He wrote in response: “As the academic and financial vitality continues to increase, so too will the value of your degree, and the degrees of all the alumni who have preceded you.”

A sale price was not disclosed, but Myers said ITT will invest about $40 million into Daniel Webster, which includes assuming at least $20 million in debt. ITT, by contrast, made $62 million last quarter.

In other ways, too, Daniel Webster and ITT are very different institutions. Daniel Webster operates just two campuses – the main location in Nashua and a small satellite operation in Portsmouth on the Pease International Tradeport.

ITT, based in Carmel, Ind., a suburb of Indianapolis, operates more than 100 campuses in 37 states. There are two in Greater Boston, but none in New Hampshire.

Daniel Webster offers bachelor’s degrees and graduate programs, and is well known nationally for its aviation program, although participation in the program has declined and enrollment in other programs has caught up.

ITT is best known for two-year associate degrees, although it does offer some bachelor’s programs and an online MBA.

However, according to Glenn Tanner, chief marketing officer for ITT, there are some similarities.

For starters, both have a strong focus on technology programs.

“We believe that our culture and our mission is very similar to Daniel Webster,” Tanner said. “We believe that Daniel Webster appeals to a somewhat different student, but with a lot of the same values.”

ITT appeals to students who may not otherwise gain acceptance into college or have an interest in attending, but are looking for careers and pay beyond what a high school education alone provides.

Interviewed Thursday, Thomas Horgan, president of the New Hampshire College and University Council, called a school’s transition from a nonprofit institution to a for-profit school “very significant.”

Students may not notice a change in academics, he said, but it means a change in philosophy.

“They have to answer to shareholders; they have to make a profit,” Horgan said.

“There’s a shift in the focus, a shift in the way decisions will be made.”

It is rare that a private four-year college sell to a for-profit institution, but not unprecedented.

Two other for-profit schools exist in New Hampshire: Hesser College, a chain owned by Kaplan, and McIntosh College in Dover, which is in the process of closing.

McIntosh began more than 100 years ago as an independent college but was bought out by for-profit chain Career Education Corp. in 1999. Last year, the company announced it would close nine campuses, some of which were struggling financially.