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Public Higher Education Task Force releases findings on strategic alignment of state public higher education

In accordance with Executive Order 2023-06 issued by Governor Chris Sununu, the Public Higher Education Task Force released a report of its findings on the strategic alignment of public higher education in New Hampshire, including short-term and long-term initiatives intended to reduce financial barriers, increase accessibility, drive the state’s economy, and ensure the foundation for an active and engage citizenry.

Comprised of leadership¬†of the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH) and University System of New Hampshire (USNH), state officials, and industry leaders, the task force solicited statewide input from various stakeholders, which affirmed that “shifts in demographics and the needs of students, as well as the expectations of employers for a skilled workforce, require the institutions to take bold and immediate steps to work more effectively together.”

Higher education in the United States saw enrollments decline 8% between 2019 and 2022. Due to declining birth rates, further enrollment declines are expected in 2025 and beyond. The skyrocketing costs of college education, coupled with increased competition from private online universities, have compounded the problem.

“I thank members of the task force for their work to address the challenges that institutions of higher education across the country are facing, all while providing students in the Granite State and beyond with affordable, increased access to New Hampshire’s top-notch public higher education institutions,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “The recommendations made will serve New Hampshire’s economy, students, and communities well for continued success.”

Recommended short-term initiatives include:

  • Transfer credit and curricular alignment between CCSNH and USNH while expanding credit opportunities for experiential work
  • Begin implementation of New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) accreditation for CCSNH as a single statewide college with locations throughout the state
  • Streamlining the admissions process to proactively accept CCSNH students with a predetermined GPA to USNH schools and notification of automatic acceptance to CCSNH for high school students
  • Utilizing consistent admissions and financial aid processes for students of both systems
  • Increase the use of online delivery to provide access to workforce opportunities
  • Recruit employers to assist graduates with loan repayments when they begin working
  • Co-locating the CCSNH and USNH system offices in a shared workspace to foster the streamlining and coordination of common administrative functions

Recommended long-term initiatives include:

  • Study having the two systems under one governing board and one chancellor
  • Develop a rolling six-year plan, updated every two years
  • Eliminate institutional competition through program duplication where duplicate programs are not needed
  • Expand online offerings and potential consolidation to a single platform across both systems
  • Examine offering CCSNH courses and programs on USNH campuses and vice-versa
  • Improve transfer ability from CCSNH to USNH
  • Analyze physical assets and program utilization across both systems for space utilization and the potential for shared facilities

“The Governor’s task force report provides practical suggestions useful in advancing the ongoing collaborative work between the Community Colleges and the University System,” said Catherine Provencher, Chief Administrative Officer of USNH. “We look forward to working with CCSNH on executing many of the report recommendations to strengthen public higher educational opportunities for students.”

“We’ve appreciated the opportunity created by the Governor’s Task Force to focus on both the challenges and the opportunities to better serve our students, our communities, and our state,” said Mark Rubinstein, Chancellor of CCSNH. “We recognize our responsibilities, and in partnership with the University System, legislators, and other stakeholders, our goal is to ensure that we continue to improve how we serve our students and the people of New Hampshire.”

Following completion of the report, the Governor will review the findings and recommendations with the Higher Education Task Force members and work with legislative leaders to implement agreed-upon recommendations in a timely fashion.

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