As the new president of this venerable organization, I decided the best way I could fully understand the challenges and unique strengths of the schools we serve was to go out and see the institutions for myself, talk to their leaders, and even visit with some of their students. It’s a chance for me to learn about the extraordinary work going on at colleges and universities across New England during these extraordinary times when we are all so deeply impacted by the pandemic. It’s an opportunity to reach out to our members and share some of my early thoughts about where accreditation is going. And quite frankly, after months of working remotely (our tirelessly devoted staff is now working two days a week in the office for the foreseeable future), I’m eager to develop the helpful, supportive personal relationships that have always characterized the NECHE organization. And in addition to this blog, I will also be doing a podcast of my interviews so you can access that as well.
Thanks for joining us our journey. I hope you enjoy the trip!
They call it the North Country and guess what? It is very far north, with Berlin, New Hampshire, home of White Mountains Community College, just about sixty miles from the Canadian border. Betty and I arrived in the North Country on a Sunday, put on our hiking boots and a whole lot of layers, and headed up Lincoln Woods on the Franconia Ridge Trails toward Mt. Flume. They claim Mt. Flume is one of the easier 4,000-foot climbs in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. (There are 48.) It is also listed as a six- to eight-hour trek so we started too late to get to the top before dark. All I can say is thank goodness for that. We got to about 3,000 feet after about four hours on the trail (walking straight up and then careening down) and man, did it kick my you-know-what. Betty, on the other hand, seemed just fine and dandy.
After a good night’s sleep, we were off to Berlin and WMCC. White Mountains Community College just celebrated its 50th anniversary and its President, Dr. Charles Lloyd is a young man very proud of his college. And for very good reason. With a 54% graduation rate, WMCC ranks 20th among over 850 two-year colleges in getting students through graduation in 3 years or less. That’s something to truly celebrate. White Mountains Community College offers 48 programs in three locations: Littleton, North Conway, and Berlin, and enrolls about 1,000 students, 300 of whom are dual-enrollment high schoolers. WMCC has found if it can actively engage high school students in beginning college, they are far more likely to stick with their education, learn a good-paying trade or vocation, or proceed on to get their full 4-year degree.
Two interesting side notes about the dual-enrollment group: The per-credit price for these students is fifty percent of the regular price (or around $100 a credit) and thanks to the Governor’s edict, up to four STEM courses can be taken for free.
We had a chance to visit with some students who were on campus in the culinary program and the welding program. Monday was Sandwich Day on the culinary side and let me tell you, those students can definitely put together two pieces of bread. I was ready to sign up on the spot.
Betty, on the other hand, was totally enamored with the welding program and we might have to rent a little place in Berlin so she can get behind the torch. Welding is a nine-month program, with two additional months if you want to learn pipe fitting. Every graduate of the WMCC program has a job upon graduation (companies come directly to the college to recruit), and with overtime some graduates can make over $60,000/year straightaway.
Their teacher Michael Pike actually keeps track of each graduate on his i-Phone, current salary included! He’s like a very proud papa, and even has a set of twin young women in his class who are kicking pipe right now.
Click here to listen to my conversation with a true believer in community college education, Dr. Charles Lloyd.