Task Force Urges New Hampshire to Consider Merging Public College Systems to Ensure Sustainability


A task force appointed by New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has issued recommendations calling for the exploration of merging the state's community college and university systems. The move aims to address challenges posed by declining enrollment and revenue faced by these institutions. The task force emphasized the need for immediate action to ensure the long-term viability of New Hampshire's higher education model.

(Photo : WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Farragutful)

Proposed Measures for Long-Term Viability

The task force, which released a 33-page report after three months of discussions, suggested significant changes to revamp the state's public higher education landscape. One key recommendation is to consolidate the Community College System of New Hampshire and the University System of New Hampshire under a single governing board and chancellor. This would streamline administrative processes and reduce duplication of academic offerings between the two systems.

Additionally, the report calls for measures to enhance accessibility, efficiency, and affordability in higher education. It proposes that the community college system be recognized as a single entity with multiple locations under its accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education. The task force also suggests streamlining admissions processes, exploring automatic acceptance for high school students to community colleges, and proactively admitting community college students with a predetermined GPA to public universities.

Furthermore, the task force recommends prioritizing affordability by exploring the feasibility of offering last dollar financial aid programs and utilizing open educational resources to reduce the financial burden on students.

READ ALSO: Pennsylvania and Oklahoma Governors Propose Consolidation of HEIs to Navigate Enrollment and Financial Challenges

Challenges and Future Outlook

Despite these proposed measures, the task force acknowledges that New Hampshire's public institutions cannot rely solely on in-state students to address enrollment issues. Approximately half of the students enrolled at the University System of New Hampshire are from out of state. Therefore, the task force emphasizes the importance of marketing efforts beyond state borders to attract students and offset enrollment declines.

Governor Sununu highlighted the urgency of addressing these challenges, citing the projected decline in high school graduates and the ongoing decrease in enrollment and revenue. While the task force's recommendations offer a comprehensive roadmap for addressing these issues, their implementation will require legislative action and additional funding.

The task force's recommendations underscore the need for proactive measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of New Hampshire's public higher education system in the face of evolving demographic and economic trends. Collaborative efforts between state policymakers, educational leaders, and stakeholders will be essential to implement these recommendations effectively and secure the future of higher education in New Hampshire.

The task force's report serves as a call to action for all stakeholders to work together towards a more resilient and accessible higher education system that meets the needs of New Hampshire's students and communities.

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