NH Education News Digest, May 2022: Special Higher Education Edition

Dear Friends and Colleagues, 

May is an exciting month on the college-and-career pathway. Many high school seniors have just made the momentous decision about what comes next for them after graduation, while high school juniors begin glimpsing the postsecondary horizon. College students are wrapping up their school year, and many are beginning summer internships or their first post-college jobs.

This month also marks the two-year point since high school and college students lost important milestones in their high school journeys due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many young people suffered losses that would affect their trajectories in the short and long term. For institutions, meanwhile, the pandemic intensified the pressures created by a period of declining enrollment, forcing difficult decisions and creative solutions. 

The Alliance for College and Career Readiness and Reaching Higher NH have been deeply involved in conversations and research around the postsecondary landscape and the future of higher education in our state. We are pleased to present this special issue of our newsletter, offering research, insights, stories, news, tools, and more – all on a topic of critical importance to New Hampshire’s young people, our leaders, and our communities. Thank you, as always, for taking the time to read and for supporting our students and our schools. 

Spotlight on Healthcare Pathways

Emaris Henault, an alum of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Workforce Readiness Institute Pharmacy Technician Apprenticeship program, works at Dick Hall’s House Pharmacy at Dartmouth College in Hanover. Photo courtesy of Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

Matthew McDonald was a first-year nursing student at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The frightening and heartbreaking tales from hospitals didn’t scare him away from his career choice—quite the opposite. 

“When you hear about nurses who didn’t have any PPE and decided to treat their patients anyway … it makes me want to embody and emulate that attitude,” McDonald, a 2019 graduate of Merrimack Valley High School and a former student at Concord Regional Technical Center, told Reaching Higher last spring. “I want to be part of that.”

To ease a healthcare worker shortage made more urgent amid the pandemic, educators and employers are in search of more young people like McDonald. Several new initiatives are paving the way to promising healthcare pathways. Read the full story here and listen to an interview about a new healthcare pre-apprenticeship program with Anne Banks, Apprenticeship NH High School Grant Manager for the Community College System of New Hampshire here

Youth Retention Initiative Webinar features Reaching Higher’s Nicole Heimarck

Ensuring all New Hampshire young people find meaningful postsecondary pathways starts with adopting inclusive language, Reaching Higher’s Nicole Heimarck explained during an April 12 webinar hosted by the UNH Youth Retention Initiative. 

“Kids pick up on values and perceptions from a very early age,” said Heimarck, Executive Director of Reaching Higher and Director of the New Hampshire Alliance for College and Career Readiness. “Our number one aim has really been to have a broad and inclusive definition of life after high school … Success comes in all shapes and sizes.” 

Heimarck was one of four featured panelists and four UNH faculty researchers who shared findings and insights during the virtual webinar. Speakers emphasized several important findings and key challenges in supporting students on their postsecondary journeys while also encouraging young people to put down roots here in New Hampshire. 

The recorded webinar can be viewed here. For additional information on the Initiative, view the Key Findings report.

High Stakes for Higher Ed: NH leaders and lawmakers seek opportunities  in postsecondary education

Higher education has undergone intense change in recent years, due to factors including demographic trends, workforce demands, student needs, and economic realities. Lawmakers and leaders are exploring a variety of strategies and solutions to address issues ranging from declining enrollment to opportunity gaps. Such initiatives are not limited to higher education institutions; many involve collaborative efforts to create strong pathway systems for students that begin in high school or earlier.

STUDY: Exploring Key Traits and Practices to Build Exemplary Career Pathway Systems

WEBINAR: Higher Education Roundtable by NH Alliance for College and Career Readiness 

  • Along with continuing their work expanding access to Career and Technical Education, lawmakers have addressed several bills relevant to college and career pathways this session. HB 1530, which was approved by both the House and Senate, streamlines credit transfers between the Community College System and University System. HB 1218 would merge Granite State College (GSC) into the University of New Hampshire, giving students from both colleges access to in-person classes at UNH-Manchester and online classes through GSC. 
  • Recognizing the challenges in the higher education landscape, donors have stepped in to fill gaps as well. Last year, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation teamed up with the Foundation for New Hampshire Community Colleges to create the Gift to the Class of 2021, and earlier this year, the Community College System of NH received a $1 million donation – the largest private donation in its history – from Anna Grace and Paul Holloway.
  • Partnerships between educational institutions, businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations are also playing a critical role.

    “We have to work together and collaborate with shared resources and shared goals if we are to fill the workforce pipeline for both today and tomorrow,” MCC President Brian Bicknell wrote in a recent Union Leader op-ed. “Partnership is the way forward.” 

Read our full story here

In praise of instincts on the postsecondary journey

When it comes to choosing a college or other postsecondary path, gut-level decisions deserve respect, Reaching Higher Communications Director Sarah Earle writes in the first of  a new series of essays on education:

When my younger daughter, Katie, was little, she often froze or panicked over big decisions – and when you’re little, pretty much anything can constitute a big decision: which kind of sprinkles to get on your ice cream, which stuffed animal to bring to the grocery store, which crayon to use on your self-portrait. 

I thought we might be in similar territory last year when Katie, now nearly grown, began thinking about what to do after graduation.

I probably don’t have to tell you that as decisions go, this one’s a biggie. But as it turned out, Katie made her choice with the breezy confidence of a day trader. I’ve been thinking about her whirlwind decision in the months since, and I’ve come to believe it was wiser than I gave her credit for. 

Read the full essay.

National News

Student loan repayment pause extended

The U.S. Department of Education has extended the pause on student loan repayments first enacted in the early months of the pandemic. The extension gives borrowers additional time to plan for repayment and reduces the risk of delinquency and defaults, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona explained in a statement last month. Originally set to expire this month, the repayment pause will now run through the end of August 2022. During that time, the Department will continue assessing the impact of the pandemic on student borrowers and building additional supports, including a new partnership that will reduce or eliminate paperwork for borrowers eligible for loan forgiveness through public service work. 

Paths to Success: How to Help Your Child Jumpstart Their Future: Research shows that success in high school and beyond starts in middle school. This readiness check by Learning Heroes helps parents assess their middle schoolers’ math and reading skills and includes videos and activities to support their learning at home. 

Financial Aid Insider: This comprehensive guide by the New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation (NHHEAF) helps families understand what financial aid is available, how to navigate the financial aid process, how to interpret financial aid packages, and what options they have for paying for college. Check the NHHEAF website for additional tools, resources, and events as well. 

College Scorecard: This newly updated interactive web tool by the U.S. Department of Education provides important data on colleges, including their fields of study, costs, admissions, outcomes, and more, helping students and prospective students make informed decisions about their postsecondary plans. Updates include an annual refresh of cumulative student loan debt and loan repayment rates, as well as institution-level earnings data. The changes are meant to advance inclusive, affordable postsecondary programs with strong career outlooks. 

Reaching Higher webinar examines tax caps, school funding

With recent legislative proposals putting tax caps in the spotlight, Reaching Higher teamed up with the New Hampshire School Funding Fairness Project last month to present a webinar on school funding and tax caps in New Hampshire. RHNH Policy Director Christina Pretorius and NHSFFP Project Director Zach Sheehan provided an overview of school funding in 2022 and discussed existing and proposed methods of limiting school resources. View the recorded webinar here

HB 1393, which would allow school districts to adopt budget tax caps, was added to an unrelated Senate bill in the House on Thursday, April 27 after being killed by the Senate. The full House is scheduled to vote on SB 400 as amended on Wednesday, May 4. 

Colleges’ new solution to enrollment declines: Reducing the number of dropouts
Hechinger Report, Jon Marcus, March 6, 2022

Increasing Opportunities for Justice Impacted Students

Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Rebecca Kelliher, March 8, 2022

12th Graders Took Harder Courses and Had Higher GPAs, But Test Scores Fell. What Gives?
Education Week, Sarah D. Sparks, March 16, 2022

PROOF POINTS: Study finds guaranteed free tuition lures low-income students
Hechinger Report, Jilly Barshay, April 11, 2022