After outcry, NHTI to rehire ESOL coordinator in advisory role 

  • The campus of NHTI is always bustling with activity, especially in front of the Student Center.

Monitor staff
Published: 12/9/2019 2:24:37 PM

A longtime coordinator for English language services at NHTI will remain on staff in another role, the college said Sunday.

Dawn Higgins, currently the director of Cross-Cultural Education and English for Speakers of Other Languages, will take a role in the college’s Advisory Center, after initially being one of 10 people facing layoffs due to funding shortfalls, a spokesperson for NHTI said.

That offer was made after a present advisor at that Center decided to retire, spokeswoman Shannon Reid, said. Higgins could not be reached for comment.

The planned layoffs, announced in late November, come after an enrollment drop this year opened up a $1.2 million budget hole, according to the college. All 10 positions – including four faculty member positions – will be eliminated by Dec. 27, the college said.

The staffing reductions have prompted a broad outcry from students and staff, who say the college should have better prepared for the drop in enrollment.

But Higgins’s layoff touched a particular nerve. In her years working with non-native English speakers, she had turned the English for Speakers of Other Languages office into a student support hub for international or New American students, those students said.

She had also helped form a bridge between an English Language Learners program at Concord High School and NHTI, according to Anna-Marie DiPasquale, the school social worker at the high school.

Higgins’s planned departure sparked letters to the editor in the Monitor and frustrated reactions from and DiPasquale and NHTI students.

While the development means Higgins will stay at the school, her role will be different, Reid said. As an advisor, she’ll work with ESOL and non-ESOL students, for instance, though the nature of that work is not yet clear.

The changes come as the college seeks to roll out an overhaul of its advising services – with an eye to ESOL students.

Data from the school indicates that graduation rates for non-native English speakers is low; just five ESOL students have attained a degree or certificate in the past three years, Reid said. The school is hoping to reorient advising services to make them more present for students and to boost graduation rates, according to Reid.

“As a college, we must do better to guide and support our ESOL students to complete degrees and certificates,” Reid said. “The results suggested that it was time for us to approach this differently, which is what the new advising structure is intended to do.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at, at (603) 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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