August 18, 2008 | last updated March 28, 2012 7:17 am
MAJOR CHANGE

Salter Takes Stock After First Year As 2-Year College | Broader offerings help attract younger student population

Photo/Courtesy
James Cummings, an instructor at Salter, leads a computer technology class.

A year into life as a two-year college offering associates degrees, officials at Salter College in West Boylston say the transformation has gone smoothly.

Salter got its start 70 years ago as a certificate-only school. But after five years of planning, Salter School became Salter College last fall, achieving full accreditation as a two-year college, offering associates degrees in medical assisting, accounting and office administration in three areas: executive, legal and medical. It continues to offer certificate programs in subjects like massage therapy, culinary arts, medical billing and coding, accounting, medical assisting and office administration.

Education Legacy

While the school has changed buildings and some program offerings over the years, including its most recent transformation, some things haven't changed: an emphasis on hands-on learning and gaining real world experience.

"The externship program is really the hallmark of our program," said Louise Motta, Salter's librarian, about the school's relationship with many area businesses and agencies where students are placed to get experience in their field of studies.

School officials also believe that they're carrying on the work of founder, Dorothy Lowell Salter, who opened the school in 1937 in a Victorian home at 45 Cedar St in Worcester.

In 2002 the school was acquired by Premier Education Group of Branford, Conn., a private company that owns several other trade-focused schools including Seacoast Career Schools in New Hampshire and Harris School in New Jersey.

"She opened this school to give women other options when there were limited opportunities for them," said Christine McNally, Salter College's director of student services.

"I can't tell you how many people I've talked to who had a mother, or a grandmother or an aunt attend Salter. We're a part of the Worcester community."

Now men and women of all ages from all backgrounds come to the school so they can have a better career. Student enrollment is at 800 and there are 40 to 50 instructors depending on what classes are available.

"We think we're seeing more young people now that we are a college, but our core allows people to retool and change careers as well," said Motta.

This year, Salter students included a software developer who wanted to be a chef and nurses who wanted to add massage skill to complement their other medical skills.

A lot of planning went into changing from a trade school to a two-year college, including building a library from scratch.

Complete Conversion

"I was just finishing my master's (degree) in library science when they asked me if I'd be interesting in creating the library. My professor told me it would be a wonderful opportunity and it was, but there were moments that I thought, 'can I do this?" Motta said.

Now the library boasts a number of computers where students can become computer literate and learn important researching skills, as well as the usual complement of books, magazines and databases.

Last year the college moved into space in a strip mall in West Boylston because it needed more room than its Ararat Street in Worcester location could provide.

It moved within Worcester from the Cedar Street Victorian to Ararat Street in 1981.

Salter College's future will continue to evolve with the possible addition of emergency medical technician training and offering an associate's degree in culinary arts.

"We're a big part of the Worcester community," Mott said. "The planning, self-study and review of our programs is an ongoing process so we can meet the needs of our students."

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