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New $1.2m to WMCC to help boost rural college access

CONCORD — Recognizing the need to assist North Country families with the cost of higher education, New Hampshire’s congressional delegation announced Wednesday it had successfully worked on a bipartisan bill to increase funding for efforts to help students pay for community college classes at White Mountains Community College.

White Mountains Community College (WMCC) is located in Berlin with satellite campuses in Littleton and North Conway, and is one of seven colleges in the Community College System of New Hampshire.

WMCC offers associate degree and certificate programs, plus training options, preparing students for 21st century job opportunities, including a very competitive nursing program, as well as transfer pathways to four-year colleges and universities.

The $1,222,171 grant is part of the Rural Postsecondary and Economic Grant program offered at WMCC. The grant will support a new project to improve rates of postsecondary enrollment, providing students with education and job training to support college readiness and career mobility.

“ZIP code should never determine students’ opportunities and access to higher education, but significant disparities often persist in rural communities,” said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D- N.H.). “It’s why funding to support post-secondary education and job training for students in rural communities is so critical.”

“We must ensure that people in rural communities have access to higher education opportunities to help them thrive, which will also help meet the needs of businesses in these communities,” said U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).

The $1.2 million grant bolsters an existing effort at WMCC to make college more affordable to families who struggle to pay for education.

With this grant, WMCC and Campus Compact for New Hampshire will develop career pathways that align with high-skill, high-wage and in-demand industry sectors and occupations in the region.

This student-centered program will use evidence-based approaches that increase the likelihood that students will earn a degree and enter the workforce. These strategies include a focus on social belonging and leveraging college partnerships to ensure students are college and career ready.

“The interest in taking our classes is very high, but for many families the economics simply don’t work without some extra assistance,” said Dr. Chuck Lloyd, president of White Mountains Community College. “This grant will go a long way to close the financial funding gap between a student’s dreams and a diploma or certificate in a field of study at WMCC.”

“This grant reflects the Community College System of New Hampshire strategy of supporting rural students in accessing New Hampshire higher education,” said Stephanie Lesperance of Campus Compact NH. “We are honored to be part of this important project honoring Granite Staters.”

“Programs like the one at WMCC help to strengthen our workforce and connect qualified applicants with hiring employers. I look forward to seeing the positive impact of this project on our state and our economy,” said U.S. Rep Annie Kuster (D-N.H.).

“Community colleges, including White Mountains Community College, play a vital role in training our workforce and helping families succeed and we must support investments like this to ensure every Granite Stater has access to a quality education that prepares them for the 21st-century economy,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.).

Historic factors have resulted in New Hampshire college graduates having among the country’s highest debt loads from student loans. This program is designed to alleviate the financial burden for families. It has proven to be successful in the state, granting access to higher education for students who would not have been able to afford college without this assistance.