N.H. community colleges slash tuition 5 percent


CONCORD — Students at New Hampshire's seven community colleges — including Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth — will see lower tuition bills starting in the fall of 2014.

The Community College System board of trustees on Wednesday announced a 5 percent tuition reduction, bringing the in-state per credit cost to $200 from its present level of $210. A three-credit course will cost $600, down from $630. For an in-state student taking a minimum full-time course load of 12 credits per semester, annual tuition costs will drop from $5,040 to $4,800.

The tuition reduction was announced as part of a "focus on preparing more New Hampshire residents with 21st century skills and providing affordable college-to-career pathways."

New Hampshire's community colleges offer two-year associate degree programs and short-term certificate programs in a wide variety of career fields, linked to industry sectors with strong labor market demand including information technology, health care, business, hospitality, engineering technology, education and advanced manufacturing. Additionally, more than half the students who enroll in New Hampshire's community colleges intend to pursue transfer to a four-year school after earning an associate degree or some number of credits at the community colleges, according to a press release.

The tuition reduction came after the governor and state Legislature restored funding to the community college system that had been cut in the previous state budget.

Paul Holloway, chairman of the board of trustees, said, “We committed to the governor and Legislature that investing in the community colleges would help New Hampshire families and New Hampshire's economy. Last year, we froze tuition. We are reducing tuition for the upcoming year. We have invested in programs like advanced manufacturing and health professions, which helps employers fill high-skilled jobs and strengthens our state's economy. And we focused on innovation and efficiencies that help us achieve our mission more cost effectively for students, families and taxpayers."

“Making higher education more affordable for all of our families is one of my highest priorities as we work to build a stronger workforce that will lead to innovative economic growth,” Gov. Maggie Hassan said. “I applaud the leadership of the Community College System of New Hampshire for their decision to reduce tuition and their continued commitment to the success of our students. This important step forward for our workforce builds on the progress we made in last year's bipartisan budget to restore investments in higher education in exchange for a tuition freeze.”

Ross Gittell, chancellor of the community college system, said that he and system leaders have been modeling a tuition reduction scenario and were ready to announce the reduction now, instead of making a decision in June as in years past.

“Reducing tuition and bending the cost curve in higher education helps students and their families fit a college education in their budgets,” Gittell said. “Whether students come to the community colleges to train for a career, or as a first step in a four-year college pathway, affordability is essential to their ability to succeed.”

Gittell said students with an associate degree earn on average 28 percent more than those with only a high school education in New Hampshire. He said students who transfer from a community college to a four-year college do as well as those who start out at a four-year college.

Adam Moy, a second-year student at Manchester Community College and a student member of the board of trustees, said saving money on tuition is important to his fellow students.

“It may enable someone who is only taking one or two classes at a time to take a heavier course load and graduate sooner,” said Moy. “Or a person considering college will see that the community colleges are working hard to keep costs down, and will feel more confident about making the leap and enrolling. As a student I've been very impressed with the quality of the education and the doors that open to community college graduates.”

Moy, who lives in Manchester, is earning an associate degree in business communications and plans to take advantage of the business degree transfer agreement between MCC and Southern New Hampshire University, which allows him to transfer 90 credits, enabling him to complete a bachelor's degree with just one year of university costs.

The New England regional program rate will be $300 per credit, and the out of state rate will be $450 per credit, down from $315 and $478 respectively. Ninety-five percent of students at New Hampshire's community colleges are in-state residents.

New Hampshire's community colleges are accepting registrations now for the fall semester, which begins on Sept. 2. Links to all colleges are at www.ccsnh.edu .

The Community College System of New Hampshire schools are Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth and Rochester; Lakes Region Community College in Laconia; Manchester Community College; Nashua Community College; NHTI – Concord's Community College; River Valley Community College in Claremont and Keene; and White Mountains Community College in Berlin and Littleton.