4 Things to Know about the “Drive to 65” Act

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A bipartisan effort to move the state closer to college and career readiness goals passed the House on May 2, 2019 and is one step closer to the Governor’s desk. The “Drive to 65 Act,” or SB 276, would help advance the statewide goal of having 65% of Granite Staters with postsecondary credentials (including 2- and 4-year college degrees, trade certificates, and more) by 2025, known as the “65×25 Initiative.”

Educators, business leaders, and state agencies are working together to achieve the 65×25 goal. Here are four things to know about the Act:

  • It furthers the statewide goal to make our students college and career ready after graduation, working with them to map a path that will achieve their individual college and career goals.
  • It allows tenth graders to enroll in courses offered through the Community College System of New Hampshire’s (CCSNH) Running Start program that allow them to earn college credit for high school courses (like Calculus, College Composition, and more), preparing them for higher education and saving money on tuition.
  • It requires school districts to create a career-readiness plan for each entering student and report on the student’s progress, ensuring students graduate ready to pursue careers and college degrees.
  • It defines key terms regarding college and career readiness for lawmakers and education leaders, and requires a Career and Technical Education state council to update lawmakers on progress towards the 65×25 goal to ensure accountability in meeting the statewide goal.

According to the bill’s primary sponsor, Senator Jay Kahn (D-Keene), the bill would “ensure New Hampshire high school graduates have the career readiness credentials they need to accelerate entry into the workforce, as well as college completion, and the tools they need to build a good life.”

Students ready to testify to the House Education Committee in favor of SB 276, the “Drive to 65” Act

Supporting the State Goal of 65×25

By 2020, 68% of jobs in New Hampshire will require some sort of post-secondary education, whether it be a certificate, college degree, or advanced degree. But our workforce isn’t on track to meet that bar according to Dr. Ross Gittell, the Chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire.

Preparing students for the careers of tomorrow and helping to advance the careers of existing Granite Staters is imperative the state and our economy.

“The failure to reach that goal will harm the state’s ability to retain, attract and grow business, and will have long-term effects on the state’s economy and quality of life,” writes Dr. Gittell.

In 2007, about 50% of New Hampshire adults had a college degree or certificate. In 2015, a coalition, including the NH Charitable Foundation, NH Tomorrow, the Business and Industry Association, CCSNH, and education and business leaders, worked together to create a plan that would help the state reach a goal of 65% of New Hampshire adults having a degree or certificate by 2025.

Since then, the percentage has grown: in 2016, 53.6% of adults had a degree or certificate, and by 2017, 54.2% had one.

“The Drive to 65 Act solidifies the state’s and lawmakers’ commitment to our future workforce and health of our economy by better aligning K-12 education with the goal of graduating college- and career-ready students,” said Jessica Rodriguez, the Director of the NH Alliance for College and Career Readiness at Reaching Higher NH.

Through dual and concurrent enrollment programs that help challenge students while earning college credit and reducing their tuition costs, working with students and families to map career pathways early on in high school to ensure they graduate prepared for their future, and aligning state efforts, the Drive to 65 Act brings future economic prosperity and workforce preparedness to the forefront of the conversation.

The Running Start Program & Dual Enrollment

The Community College System of NH (CCSNH) offers several early college program options including a dual enrollment program, where high school juniors and seniors can take college courses at a Community College, and a concurrent enrollment program, where juniors and seniors can earn college credit for college courses that are aligned with courses in their high school schedule.

  • The Running Start program aligns college courses with certain high school courses that students sign up for, such as, Calculus, College Composition, Statistics, Anatomy & Physiology, and Chemistry, allowing them to receive high school credit and college credit through CCSNH. Over one hundred high schools offer courses through the Running Start program.
  • eStart is an online dual credit program, where students can earn high school and college credit for courses they take through CCSNH. These courses are taught by a CCSNH college professor for college credit with high school credit provided by the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS).
  • Early College on Campus allows high school students to take college courses on a college campus and enroll in courses that may not be available at their high school. Early College students learn from professors alongside college students, using the institution’s labs and equipment.
  • Early College at the High School can allow high school students to take college courses that may be offered at their high school during the day or evening. These courses may be offered to students that are not in close proximity to one of the state’s community colleges.

Many colleges and universities across the state and country accept the credits earned through all four programs as transfer credits, allowing the student to get a jump start on their college courses and save money on tuition. Some students are able to save an entire semester, sometimes even an entire year, of tuition because of the Running Start, eStart, and Early College courses they take.

Students at the Legislative Office Building in May, getting ready to share their stories to the House Education Committee. (CREDIT: Jessica Rodriguez)

Stefani Rickie, a senior at Pittsfield Middle High School, testified that the dual and concurrent enrollment programs gave her opportunities to grow in her aspirations of being a teacher and helped her get a head start with college level coursework.

“I was able to transfer up to 16 credits, which saved me money and helped me settle into my college life,” she told the Senate Workforce and Development Committee at a hearing in February.

Enrollment in both programs has grown over 30% since last year, with 6,274 students participating. The Drive to 65 Act would allow high school sophomores to enroll in Running Start courses, further expanding opportunities for students.

Career-Readiness Plans

The Drive to 65 Act would require all public New Hampshire high schools to assess the career interests of incoming freshmen and create a plan on how to best work towards the credential for that career, beginning in September 2020. Schools would work with students to identify career pathways and document their progress, preparing them for securing a post-graduation work credential.

Working with students and families, schools would be required to advise students on the best way to achieve their goal through Career and Technical Education courses, Running Start and Early College courses, Extended Learning Opportunities, and other work-based learning enrollments.

“In this environment of exciting educational innovation, we owe it to our students to rethink high school education, and re-evaluate the ways in which we are preparing our children for college and career success. Whether students plan to go into a two- or four-year college, the military or into the workforce after high school, CTE can be a pivotal and progressive part of their education, and it’s something all high school students and their parent/guardians should take the time to learn more about,” wrote Steve Rothenberg of Director of the Concord Regional Technical Center and president of the New Hampshire Career and Technical Administrators Association in an op-ed for the Concord Monitor.

Schools would also be required to report on the number of students who enroll in CTE, Running Start and Early College courses, work-based learning opportunities, and Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) as well as the number of career-ready credentials they award.

CTE and ELOs are helping students find their passions and explore careers they hadn’t considered, like Audrey Carlson, a senior at Concord High School.

Students share their experiences with ELOs and CTE to the House Education Committee in May. (CREDIT: Jessica Rodriguez)

“I just wanted to learn some useful life skills, but fell in love with my automotive technician course. I fell in love with it, and decided not to do liberal arts–I want to do mechanical engineering with an associate’s in Automotive Technology,” Carlson told the committee.

Now, Carlson is working with data and robotics as part of an ELO for math and science to further her college and career goals.

Aligning & Defining Efforts

The Drive to 65 Act also includes provisions to define key terms for lawmakers and a requirement that the state council on CTE report progress towards the goal to the legislature to track progress.

“The power of data, reporting, and definitions cannot be underscored enough. This is a tremendous moment in New Hampshire’s drive to ensuring all students are college and career ready”, noted Jessica Rodriguez, Director of the NH Alliance for College and Career Readiness–a project of Reaching Higher NH.

Learn more about the New Hampshire Alliance for College and Career Readiness, a project of Reaching Higher NH, at https://thenhalliance.org/ and read the latest news on initiatives in New Hampshire: