SNHU to continue academics, employment for Daniel Webster College students and staff

NASHUA – A week after Daniel Webster College’s parent institution, ITT Educational Services Inc., announced the closure of its ITT Technical Institutes campuses, Southern New Hampshire University has stepped in to help Daniel Webster students finish their degrees – and to continue employment for DWC faculty.

The current DWC president, however, will not return, and the SNHU head told students on Wednesday there is “really is no Daniel Webster College at this point.”

“Our first priority has been to take care of students and employees as best we can,” said Paul LeBlanc, president of SNHU, a private, nonprofit university based in Manchester. He announced the news to Daniel Webster College students in an email message sent out Tuesday.

“Daniel Webster, Southern New Hampshire University and the U.S. Department of Education were committed to finding a path forward for all DWC students and as of today, the decision has been made to begin a ‘Teach-Out’ agreement,” LeBlanc wrote.

The teach-out arrangement will continue students’ education on the Nashua campus as the academic programming changes hands. The teach-out will run through the end of the 2016-17 academic year, with students either graduating, moving to SNHU or transferring to another program.

For this school year, Daniel Webster College classes will continue on the Nashua campus, and residential students will live on campus for the rest of the academic year. Students will also continue to access their 2016-17 financial aid, and SNHU will honor the current tuition rate and fees.

DWC students who have completed 90 credits or more before the fall 2016 semester will graduate with a Daniel Webster College degree if they meet graduation requirements by the end of August 2017. Students with 60-90 credits will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and students with 59 credits or fewer will graduate with an SNHU degree. After this year, SNHU will accept DWC students who meet the university’s academic standards.

In terms of employees, Daniel Webster College staff will be picked up by SNHU starting Thursday.

“We received a message from ITT this morning that Daniel Webster employees will be terminated by the end of today,”
LeBlanc said in a Wednesday phone interview, adding that SNHU worked quickly to make sure the staff won’t experience a gap in pay and benefits. “First thing tomorrow, we will have people on temporary status so there is no break in medical coverage, and we can start moving forward to permanent employment.”

Wednesday, he continued, would be the last day for Daniel Webster College President Michael Diffily.

LeBlanc also held an information session Wednesday afternoon at the college campus to answer questions from students and staff.

“To be clear, there really is no Daniel Webster College at this point,” LeBlanc said in response to a student question on the transition. “Our intention is to keep the programs intact.”

Daniel Webster College senior Zach Fraser said while the situation “sucks,” SNHU administrators helped answer their questions.

“I feel they are on top of things. I was a bit in the dark before the meeting, and now I’m not,” said Fraser, who is studying game design. “They are making the best of a bad situation.”

Part of the transition will be SNHU picking up unique programs offered through Daniel Webster College, such as technical aviation training.

“Now we will move to integrate all these programs to continue to offer them to students,” LeBlanc said in a Wednesday phone interview. The integration will undergo approval by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which is the accreditation agency for both institutions.

Beyond this school year, the fate of the DWC campus is yet to be determined.

“By next fall, it is very likely that we will be off the Nashua campus (since we do not control the campus and disposition of the property will be in ITT’s hands) and all remaining students, employees and programs will be transitioned into SNHU,”
LeBlanc said in his message to students. LeBlanc said Wednesday that SNHU has made an offer to ITT/ESI for the 54-acre campus, but “we have not heard back.”

For Daniel Webster College athletics, fall sports will continue on their current schedule, and SNHU staff are working on next steps for fall and spring athletics.

“Our hope is to continue those sports and schedules as planned,” LeBlanc said in his email statement.

As of Wednesday, the teach-out arrangement between SNHU and DWC was pending approval from the U.S. Department of Education.

“The only remaining piece is the U.S. Department of Education, and they have indicated they are happy with the arrangement,” LeBlanc said.

ITT/ESI closed 130 ITT Technical Institute locations on Sept. 6 after the federal government barred the company from enrolling new students who use federal aid. While Daniel Webster College remained open, its accreditation was under scrutiny from the NEASC. The university began coordinating with Daniel Webster College last Friday regarding the teach-out arrangement, LeBlanc said.

“We had preliminary conversations before that, but Daniel Webster College was speaking with various other institutions who might step in,” he said.

However, by Friday, the Department of Education agreed to move the teach-out plan forward with SNHU.

The university has gone through a similar process in the past, said LeBlanc, “but not quite to this scale; 14 years ago when Notre Dame College closed, we took in their school of continuing education, but this is a much bigger process.”

State education officials, NEACS, SNHU and ITT have worked well together to make the plan a reality, he said.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402, tforbes@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_TinaF.