Move over, UD and DSU. Delaware’s private colleges are sharpening their public profiles.
by Jim Waltzer Published March 16, 2010 at 08:35 AM
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As the University of Delaware reaches for national stature, and both Delaware State University and Delaware Technical & Community College continue to expand, Delaware’s private colleges burnish their images outside the spotlight. Dissimilar in many ways, the four schools—Goldey-Beacom College, Wesley College, Wilmington University, and Delaware College of Art and Design—share goals, frustrations, and a desire to broadcast new messages.
“We want to lift the awareness level of our institutions to the greater population and weigh in together on state and regional issues that may affect the privates,” says Wesley president William Johnston.
This newfound togetherness has emerged from periodic breakfast meetings convening principals from each of the four schools—three presidents and a veep. Wesley’s Johnston, Wilmington University president Jack Varsalona, Goldey-Beacom vice president Gary Wirt and DCAD president Stuart Baron have formed the Delaware Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, a vehicle for professional exchange and low-key lobbying.
“We share [information about] programs, training,” says Wirt. “Sometimes we decide whether or not to close in the snow.”
Delaware Association of Independent Colleges and Universities also has been trying to convince the state legislature to expand the playing field for private colleges. The focus is the STARS (Delaware Student Academic Reward Scholarship) program embodied in proposed legislation. Under STARS, DelTech and UD associate’s degree students who have received scholarships per the state’s existing SEED (Student Excellence Equals Degree) program and graduate with a grade-point average of at least 3.5 would be able to extend those scholarships for two more years at either UD or Delaware State.
“We want all private colleges and universities to be in STARS,” says Varsalona, whose school has provided scholarships on its own dime to qualifying SEED grads. “Let the money follow the student.”
With a portfolio of seeds, stars, new campuses and, now, online colleges, higher education is clearly a growth industry in Delaware. The four privates have been participating in that trend and are pleased that prospective students can choose from a wide spectrum in the state.
But college, like life, is competitive. Says Wirt, “We need to sell ourselves and what we do well.”
The evidence suggests they do many things well. The following snapshots provide some clues.