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Community college system partners with high schools to increase matriculation

Through a new partnership with 16 high schools, the Community College System of New Hampshire is aiming to increase matriculation by 25 percent over the next three years.

This project, called the Partnership Initiative, seeks to better educate high school students and their parents about the value of attending a two-year college, either as the precursor to a career or a four-year bachelor’s degree. Another goal is to increase participation in the Running Start program, which allows high school students to take courses for college and high school credit. Participating high schools include Concord, four schools in Manchester, Kearsarge Regional, Laconia and Dover.

Representatives from the community college system are starting the initiative by reaching out to school leaders, including administrators, school boards and principals. Each participating high school will then create a leadership team tasked with finding ways to educate students about the community college system. Projects could include hosting college fairs with information about the community college system and financial aid information sessions for parents.

“It really grew out of an interest of our trustees for deeper engagement with high schools at the administrative and leadership level,” said Shannon Reid, communications director for the community college system.

Members of the community college system attended Concord’s school board meeting this week, and will hold similar meetings with other boards. The purpose of the meetings is to present information on the value of a community college education, programs offered, possible career opportunities and transfer pathways, as well as campus features and student life. The community college system is comprised of seven schools across the state.

The Running Start program allows high school students to take courses that will give them credit toward high school graduation and college. The goal of this initiative is to increase enrollment, currently at 5,000 course registrations annually, by 33 percent, Reid said. For $150 a course, students can save future costs and “streamline their college pathway,” Reid said.

Concord High School has one of the largest offerings of Running Start courses in the state, and therefore already has a strong relationship with the community college system, Superintendent Chris Rath said. About 100 students per class go on to community college, which is up from roughly 40 students several years ago, Rath said.

“It’s really become a very viable option for our kids,” Rath said. “We just have a good relationship with (the community college system) and work well back and forth.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3390 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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