Tuition at the State's seven community colleges will not rise this fall, in a decision reached by the Board of Trustees today.
"In today's economic climate, with the needs facing New Hampshire for a highly-skilled workforce to attract businesses and spur job growth, access to education and training for New Hampshire residents is essential and the community colleges provide statewide access to learners of all ages," said Ross Gittell, Chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH). "By keeping community colleges affordable, we enable continued opportunities for New Hampshire residents to gain education and skills, improve their lives and employment prospects, and support economic growth in the State."
This is the third year since 2006 that the community colleges have not increased tuition. The decision comes despite last year's cut in state funding of nearly 20 percent. CCSNH took measures to lower costs and expenses to enable it to hold tuition level for the upcoming year but trustees today sounded a strong note of caution about the strain that has placed on college operations in a time of increasing demand.
"The community colleges in New Hampshire are serving historically high numbers of students, and ninety-five percent of them are New Hampshire residents," said Paul Holloway, Chairman of the CCSNH Board of Trustees. "Higher education is an investment the State needs to make if New Hampshire is to remain competitively positioned in a regional, national and global economy. There is a broad and long-term return on investment from public higher education, and underfunding that effort is counter-productive to economic growth."
With tuition at CCSNH among the highest community college tuition rates in the country, and state scholarship funding cut in the last State budget, Gittell said community college students are facing increased difficulty affording the courses that will lead to degree attainment. "While New Hampshire's community colleges are serving historically high numbers of students, students are taking fewer courses because tuition costs and cuts in scholarship funds put them at their financial limit," Gittell said. "This increases the time it takes to complete a degree and impacts students' ability to graduate and move on into skilled employment. Affordability is a major factor in college completion and students in New Hampshire face challenges."
One trend Gittell sees is growth in online courses, which offer greater flexibility of scheduling and convenience for students who often face the demands of jobs and family. "Over the last five years we have seen enrollment in online courses increase by 64 percent," Gittell said. "The convenience and quality of online courses is a strong selling point and the community colleges offer more than 700 online courses each year." Gittell said the content and richness of resources that are part of online course offerings are surprising to many who are unfamiliar with online learning, but that growth in this area is linked to increasing student demand and research showing the quality of online education.
In-state tuition will remain at $210 per credit, or $630 for a 3-credit course. Annually, a community college student will pay $5,040 in tuition for a minimum full-time course load. Room and board at NHTI-Concord's Community College, which is the only college in the CCSNH with residence halls, will also remain at last year's levels. Community college courses offered in high schools through the Running Start program, for dual high school and college credit, will remain $150 per course.
Tuition for the New England Regional Student Program remains $315 per credit, and out-of-state tuition is $478 per credit.
The Community College System serves more than 27,000 learners annually, 95% of whom are NH residents. Associate degree and certificate programs prepare students for skilled employment and for transfer to four-year colleges and universities.