Imagine your dream scenario for a high school student looking for a quality education that will lead to a great career.

It would have to be affordable. It would start in high school to give students a jump on higher education. It would open doors to private-sector employers.

And, of course, it would have to be sustainable for a state facing budget pressures.

What if we could give students the chance to earn a high school diploma, an associate’s degree from our community college system, an industry recognized credential and an interview with a New Hampshire employer? We’ve found a way, at no cost to students and without increasing overall spending. In many ways, the New Hampshire Career Academy is a dream come true for Granite State students.

New Hampshire offers many opportunities for students to engage in college-level work while in high school. We have very strong dual and concurrent programs. With concurrent enrollment in N.H. community colleges’ award winning and rapidly growing Running Start program, courses are taught by qualified high school teachers in N.H. high school all across the state. With dual enrollment, classes are taught by community college professors at the community college. 

In both of these programs, students earn both high school and community college credits, and these credits transfer to over 200 colleges and universities across the country, including UNH. The Legislature has funded these programs through the state budget, ensuring that students across New Hampshire can access the opportunity. Last year, New Hampshire students took over 7,000 dual and concurrent enrollment courses.

The New Hampshire Career Academy, proposed by Gov. Chris Sununu in his inaugural address in January, builds on these highly successful programs that are well integrated into New Hampshire high schools, well known and highly valued by New Hampshire teachers and families, and are strongly aligned with the needs of New Hampshire students and the career opportunities in our state.

New Hampshire Career Academy will begin operating with two of New Hampshire’s public charter schools. Students enrolled in the Academy will take all of their academic and course programing on the campus of the participating community college. Essentially, participants become students at the community college, with access to all of the programs and support of the community college, including academic advising. At the same time, the Academy will provide these students with administrative and guidance support.

The New Hampshire Career Academy is available to qualified New Hampshire residents who are high school seniors or students who have not yet attained senior status but can reasonably be expected to complete program requirements. Participating students will attend community college during their senior year and for an extended senior year, allowing them time to complete graduation requirements for both high school and a post-secondary certificate and in some cases an associate’s degree.

Academy students will enroll in a specific program of study, approved to align with industry opportunities and student needs. So on top of a high school and a post-secondary award, students who graduate from the New Hampshire Career Academy will also be on a strong pathway to an N.H. job and career. 

All approved programs will have an industry partner who will guarantee graduating students a job interview.

That’s a great deal, especially since the New Hampshire Career Academy will be free for New Hampshire students.

Currently, New Hampshire schools spend an average of $16,000 per year per high school student, paid for by state and local taxpayers. The New Hampshire Career Academy would be based on the public charter school model, and use $7,200 per year in state funding, with $1,200 per student supporting the Academy’s administration and $6,000 to fund academic programs at the community college. 

Effectively, this program leverages existing education resources and capacity in the state to realize the ever elusive idea of making college accessible to students at no cost to them.

This innovative partnership between the state, the Community College System and New Hampshire’s private sector will give New Hampshire students an affordable path to career-focused education.

We all share the goal of bright futures for New Hampshire students and for a highly skilled workforce for employers in all regions of the state, and this is yet another pathway to make that a reality for all.

 

Frank Edelblut is commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education. Ross Gittell is chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire.

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