Some see sale as opportunity, others a loss

NASHUA – With the sound of a plane buzzing around in the sky in the background, Frujen Bridgewater said he could see the writing on the wall.

A marketing and business major, Bridgewater watched as Daniel Webster College spent the past few years marketing itself as a broader liberal arts college, offering more programs in engineering and homeland security.

“It was kind of a big hint that they were trying to open up more doors,” he said, hanging out with a group of friends in between classes on the Nashua campus Thursday.

That is why Bridgewater said he wasn’t surprised to learn about the sale of the college to ITT Educational Services, a chain of for-profit schools, through an e-mail announcement from President Richard “Skip” Myers earlier that morning.

Bridgewater said although the sale may be the best move for the college financially, he is concerned about losing the benefits that come from attending a small private college.

“I came here because I wanted the teachers to know my name,” said Bridgewater, originally from New Orleans. “Private colleges like this are becoming harder to find.”

Reaction to the sale among students on campus Thursday was mixed. While some said they saw the benefit of gaining more resources from the sale, others, like Bridgewater, felt like the college would be losing its identity.

Though Bridgewater said he saw the sale coming, other students said they were surprised to learn about it.

“I didn’t even know the college had debt,” said junior David Bernal.

Like many students, Bernal is studying aviation and has aspirations of a career as a commercial pilot. But he had thought about the possibility of returning to Daniel Webster to work as a flight instructor.

“I don’t know if this is going to change that,” he said.

Andrew Chevalier, a junior, said he was hopeful the acquisition would mean more resources for the school. The college hasn’t really built much during his time at the school, he said. “Over time, maybe it could be for the best,” he said.

John Austin, a freshman studying aviation engineering, said he didn’t think there would be much of an impact on him, as long as ITT kept his major. He said the college has a great aviation program.

Patrick Gibbons, a business major, said he was concerned about how it was going to impact the faculty and administration and whether ITT would change the “blueprint or structure” of the college.

Gibbons said he hoped the change would mean the addition of new programs, such as foreign languages.

ITT has said it will keep the Daniel Webster name, curriculum and staff. The chain of schools has plans to eventually expand Daniel Webster into a regional and then national brand of schools.

Maureen O’Dea, director of guidance at Nashua High School North, said she plans to discuss the sale of the college with students considering the school.

“I would wonder about the finances and how much that is going to change,” she said, referring to financial aid from the college.

Most students probably don’t know the difference between a nonprofit and for-profit college, she said.

The high schools in Nashua have a cooperative program with the college that allows students who want to take advanced courses in math, science or other subjects to take them at the college.

O’Dea wondered whether that program would continue.