The bill sailed through the House with bipartisan support. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)
Senate lawmakers appear poised to move ahead with a plan to merge Granite State College in Concord with the University of New Hampshire, a move officials say is necessary to deal with enrollment challenges across the state.
During a hearing Tuesday on the bill to authorize the merger, House Bill 1218, state university representatives said the combination would allow the small college to benefit from the greater brand recognition of UNH, and said it would allow the university to bring together both online and in-person offerings for students at Granite State College and the University of New Hampshire Manchester.
“The university system has been focused on how we can think differently about the structure and the delivery of higher education in the Granite State, because we’re facing some pretty strong headwinds in the future in the coming years, demographically,” said Catherine Provencher, the chief administrative officer at the University System of New Hampshire.
Enrollment has steadily declined at New Hampshire public colleges and universities, and was exacerbated by the pandemic, data suggests.
Founded in 1972, Granite State College is a public college that is part of the University System of New Hampshire, which also includes UNH and its campuses, Plymouth State University, and Keene State College. The college has specialized in online classes to students of all ages
University system officials told lawmakers Tuesday that the cost per credit hour would remain low. Granite State College charges about $314 per credit hour, half the rate of UNH, said Michael Decelle, the dean of UNH Manchester.
Granite State College would still market itself to “nontraditional adult learners” and would still employ rolling admissions.
The college would be housed within a new college in UNH titled the UNH College of Professional Studies, said Decelle, who also serves as Granite State College’s chief administrative officer.
Under the transition plan, degrees earned by students at Granite State College will be awarded by the University of New Hampshire, Provencher said.
“The legislation preserves the name of Granite State College,” Provencher said. “It’s also going to preserve the mission, in delivering flexible, affordable education to the students of Granite State. And we’re also working with the community college system because Granite State is a significant partner and feeder from the community college system to a four-year degree.”
The bill sailed through the House with bipartisan support. But some lawmakers have expressed wariness with the process of the merger. Sen. Jay Kahn, a Keene Democrat, noted that Decelle took on his position at Granite State College last year while maintaining his role at UNH Manchester, before approval of the merger by lawmakers.
“This Legislature this last year did not agree with a consolidation across systems and expressed interest in wanting to be kept informed of any further consolidations,” Kahn said. “So I want to just convey that the Legislature should not be blindsided by actions and ongoing conversations that it is not aware of.”
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