Ross Gittell, chancellor of New Hampshire’s community college system, said the state’s seven community colleges are becoming popular choices for students, despite the funding cuts.
“I think what may be the driving factor is affordability,” he said.
The community college system serves more than 27,000 students annually. Full-time tuition costs between $4,680 and $6,240 a year.
Gittell said community colleges also offer specialized training for careers such as biotechnology and advanced manufacturing, crucial job fields in the 21st century.
“An investment in the community college system is really an investment in New Hampshire’s future,” he said.
Local principals and guidance counselors said more students are expressing interest in two-year colleges. That includes Pinkerton Academy in Derry, which sent 120 of its graduates to NHTI in 2011, compared to only 35 in 2000, Blake said.
That trend is continuing this fall as well as seniors begin applying to colleges, Pinkerton guidance counselor John Chappell said.
“I’ve had more (interested) this year than any other year before,” Chappell said.
About 17 percent of Pinkerton’s approximately 700 graduates go to two-year schools, he said.
Attracting top students
Even the best students are considering community colleges, according to Chappell and Sanborn principal Brian Stack.
“Some of our brightest students are recognizing there is value to it,” Stack said.
That’s a change from years ago, when top students usually when to four-year schools, they said.
Some high schools, including Sanborn, participate in dual enrollment programs at community colleges such as NECC. It allows high school students to earn credit for college-level courses. This also persuades some to go to a two-year school on a full-time basis after graduating from high school.
Timberlane participates in a similar program, giving the high school students a big advantage when they start college, principal Donald Woodworth said.
“It’s something that is a great opportunity for our kids,” he said.