At his second inaugural address, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu promised the creation of the New Hampshire Career Academy, a partnership involving community colleges, employers and local high schools that will allow driven and capable students to pursue a tuition-free associate degree.
If the initiative goes as planned over the following year, it could potentially address some of New Hampshire’s most pressing issues, such as high levels of student debt, workforce shortage and the need to encourage young people to continue to live in the state.
“We want to make sure there are no barriers or silos between that 12th year of education and the first year of college, and that there is a smooth transfer from college to employment,” economist Ross Gittell, chancellor of the community college system told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “It’s about removing those traditional barriers by having the institutions work together instead of requiring that students address those barriers on their own.”
The idea of having a career academy has been successful in Rochester. For over a year, Spaulding High School, Great Bay Community College and Safran, an aerospace module manufacturer have collaborated on a program that gives high school students the opportunity to spend a portion of their senior year taking courses at Green Bay for both high school and college credit in the field of module manufacturing.
Students who complete and pass the program are granted an interview and possibly a job at Safran.
The New Hampshire Career Academy would act as a charter school, and will be established by a combined application of New Hampshire’s community colleges to the Board of Education, if approved.
The academy would not have any facilities or faculty of its own. Instead, the courses will be offered through community colleges across the state in partnership with the high schools, using existing faculty, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.
However, an academy board of directors will be established. Their main purpose will be to create relationships with businesses and industries throughout New Hampshire.
If approved, as a public charter school, the academy will attract $7,300 per student in funding that the state legislature has determined for approved charter schools, ridding the need for students to pay tuition.
The New Hampshire Career Academy will require students to take multiple college-level classes during their high school senior year, and a fifth year through the Career Academy.
Students who finish the program will receive a high school diploma, a college associate degree, a certificate of some fashion and a career path with a state employer.