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  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM


    With an interest in photography, Katherine Huot, a senior at Nashua High School North has plans to attend Chester College. With the school's financial situation up in the air, she's uncertain where she'll attand college this fall.




  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM


    Katherine Huot shows one of her pictures published in a school publiction Friday, May 4, 2012, at Nashua High School North. With an interest in photography, the senior has plans to attend Chester College.




  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM


    Katherine Huot shows one of her pictures published in a school publiction Friday, May 4, 2012, at Nashua High School North. With an interest in photography, the senior has plans to attend Chester College.




Monday, May 7, 2012

Possible closure of Chester College hits Nashua senior hard

NASHUA – All seniors heading to college have to make a lot of decisions this time of the year, but Katherine Huot of Nashua is facing a particularly tough one: Will her top choice even exist in September?

“It was a couple weeks ago and a friend texted me: Have you heard about Chester?” said Huot, remembering when she first heard the news that Chester College of New England will close its doors if it can’t raise half a million dollars immediately. “I told my dad, and he was pretty mad.”

Indeed he was, says her father, Michael Huot, and for good reason.

“I had asked them that question when I went for a tour in February: ‘Is there any problem with your financial situation?’ And they said no,” he said Friday. “I asked them because it’s a small school, and I always get nervous.”

The 45-year-old liberal arts college is in the town of Chester, just north of Derry, and has about 200 students.

It reported several weeks ago that declining enrollment caused by the recession has clobbered its finances, meaning it must raise between $500,000 and $900,000 by Wednesday in order to remain open for the 2012-13 school year. Tuition is about $20,000 a year.

Katherine Huot, who is a senior at Nashua High School North, says Chester College has been her top choice for a while, partly because it is strong in her planned major of photography, offering instruction in both digital and film, and partly because of its size and location.

“It’s nice and quiet,” she said. “I like that.”

Fortunately, she has also been accepted at New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester and Rivier College. Although most colleges require incoming freshman to commit by May 1, both those schools have given her until June to decide.

Even if Chester College survives, the current situation raises concern about its future over an entire four-year program.

This is partly why her guidance counselor, Scott Johnson, is advising Huot to decide carefully.

“The school has a pretty good reputation, but you wouldn’t want to have it close on you and have to transfer,” he said.

Katherine’s father said the choice of whether to attend will be up to her.

Chester’s financial problems are unusual but not unique for small, private schools in New Hampshire.

In 2009, Daniel Webster College in Nashua faced financial pressures and possible loss of accreditation after 44 years of operation. It sold itself to the parent company of ITT Technical Institutes, which has kept it open.

In Rindge, Franklin Pierce University has trimmed staff and programs in response to enrollment and financing pressures.

Scott, the guidance counselor, said the worst part about the situation with Chester College is the fact that its bad news came just as seniors had to commit to colleges.

“It’s surprising that they waited so late in the year to announce,” he said. “That makes it difficult.”

Chester College officials said Tuesday that supporters have collected more $55,000 in donations to keep the school open.

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or mgill@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Gill on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).