A generation of students spent their final year-plus in high school under the extreme circumstance of lock down and remote learning. How this will play out over time remains to be seen, but so far it appears fewer students are preparing for college.
This June, the Union Leader reported that 7% fewer New Hampshire high schoolers filled out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, this year compared with 2020. In Nashua, Nashua High School North had 21% fewer students fill out the FAFSA, and 9% fewer Nashua High School South students completed the form, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
While recent high school grads meet a welcoming job market, they don’t have to choose between college and full-time work. Community colleges accommodate working professionals through flexible scheduling and short-term career training.
“You can work college around your schedule, you can look at your options with the goal of taking a class every Tuesday and Thursday for instance, and find something that works,” said Kim Eckenrode, CTE Computer Training Coordinator at Nashua Community College. Kim often works with students who manage work, family, and other responsibilities along with school work.
“We have a lot of need for jobs in the region, but students can raise the ceiling on their earning potential with post-secondary education,” she said. “Community colleges have industry-recognized credentials, and at NCC we have short term learning such as our 18-week Coding Boot Camps, 10-week Microelectronics Boot Camp, and 26-week Big Data Developer training program.”
Aside from recent high school graduates, working adults can upskill on a short timeline.
People who have degrees in other areas need to realize that it’s OK to come back and get a certificate at a community college because it just adds on to their existing degree. They don’t need a full associate degree. For instance, an individual who is interested in adding data skills to their toolbox can consider the Data Analytics Certificate. It is one-year, 100% online program designed for working professionals.”
For many certificates, if you’re already in a career such as an administrative assistant, you could potentially leverage that experience as Prior Learning Experience toward a business certificate, she said. “It’s also worth checking your Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) eligibility to see if you qualify for education assistance.”
Alternatively, students without any degree can begin with a certificate to launch a career, and then continue on to an associate degree, bachelor’s and beyond. “It’s also a great way to see if college is for you,” said Kim, “Start small, see if the program is for you, and go from there.”
New Hampshire’s community colleges begin the fall semester August 30, and career training programs run throughout the year.