Governor’s proposed budget defunds STEM scholarships, which have fueled rapid growth in dual enrollment

Image courtesy of Great Schools

The Governor’s Dual and Concurrent Enrollment STEM Scholarship Program, which has promoted substantial growth in STEM courses across New Hampshire’s high schools, has been cut from the Governor’s proposed state budget for the 2022-2023 biennium. The STEM Scholarship Program, which allows students to take up to two free STEM courses per year for college credit, has dramatically increased access for hundreds of students, providing about $1 million annually in scholarships.

“It’s just been growing exponentially,” said Patrick McGinnis, dual enrollment coordinator for Nashua Community College. “It’s increasing the number of students that can take a college math or science course that may not have been able to before.” 

In the Governor’s proposed budget for the 2022-23 biennium, the budget line for the STEM Scholarship Program within the NH Department of Education’s budget is zeroed out. 

“I have no concept of why it’s not in the budget. It surprises me,” said Steve Rothenberg, director of Concord Regional Technical Center at Concord High School. “I think the scholarship is very empowering for students.”

Dual and concurrent enrollment programs are also an effective strategy for keeping young people in the state, contributing to a robust workforce, Rothenberg said. New Hampshire doesn’t triangulate data on K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and employment, Rothenberg said, but states that do such analyses find that dual and concurrent enrollment programs have far-reaching benefits. 

“There’s a lot of good research around the power of dual enrollment,” he said. 

New Hampshire has three dual and concurrent enrollment programs: Running Start, which brings college classes into local high schools; Early College, which allows high school students to take classes at community colleges; and e-Start, which offers online college courses for high school students. The concept behind the programs, which allow students to earn high school and college credits simultaneously, is to make college classes accessible and affordable for young people. 

The Senate is currently considering a bill that would expand the STEM Scholarships to include Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses. The bill’s fate is unclear, given the budget proposal defunds the program. 

About the STEM Scholarship Program

The Dual and Concurrent Enrollment STEM Scholarship Program is a partnership between the State of New Hampshire and the Community College System of New Hampshire. The program was designed to further improve access by offering two free dual and concurrent enrollment courses in STEM fields per student per year. During the second year of the scholarship program, participation in Running Start jumped by 35%, Beth Doiron, college access programs director for the Community College System of NH, told Reaching Higher last year. Enrollments increased another 15% last year, to about 10,500.

“It made a very big difference, mostly in the areas where we have students with low income,” Doiron said. 

The proposal to defund the program was noted by lawmakers in a House Education Committee session on Wednesday, Feb. 17. After supporters of HB 20, a controversial school voucher bill, described how private school and homeschool students could use the vouchers to take college-level courses, opponents pointed out that these free college courses are no longer available to public school students, due to the budget item being removed. 

Senate Bill 148, an omnibus bill that proposes several changes to career and vocational education, would add career and technical education courses to the state’s dual and concurrent enrollment program. The Committee meets at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17, via Zoom