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Senator wants to take 'community' out of community college system name

State House Bureau

October 10. 2017 8:29PM
SEN. JOHN REAGAN Says dropping “community” increases acceptability 

CONCORD — State Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, would like to see the word “community” taken out of the names used by the seven colleges in the Community College System of New Hampshire, and plans to introduce legislation to that effect.

Under Reagan’s proposal, White Mountain Community College, for example, would become White Mountain College.

“I’ve been told this is successful across the country because it increases acceptability of the school, the name and the transcript,” said Reagan, who chairs the Public Higher Education Study Committee. “It leads to more fundraising, because it’s not junior college.”

Reagan presented the idea to the committee of House and Senate members, and the response was largely supportive. The committee is expected to decide at its meeting next week whether to endorse Reagan’s idea.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, more than 80 schools have dropped “community” from their names over the past 30 years, with 40 doing so in the past decade.

“While the number is still a fraction of the 1,200 community colleges nationwide, the shift has been gaining traction as the lines between two- and four-year colleges blur,” the Journal reported.

Henry Ford Community College outside Detroit became Henry Ford College. Jackson Community College in Michigan is now Jackson College. The 28-campus Florida College System, known as the Florida Community College System until 2009, now has only three campuses with “community” in their name.

Proponents of the new branding cite the broader mission of the campuses, many of which were once junior colleges or vocational-technical schools. New Hampshire community colleges presently confer credentials up to and including the associate degree.

No official position

CCSNH Director of Communications Shannon Reid said the system trustees and campus leadership do not have an official position on the question.

“It has come up from time to time but there’s been no real consensus internally,” she said. “It’s an interesting question but I wouldn’t say it’s been a burning one.”

State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, who also serves on the study committee, agrees with Reagan that the changing nature of the community colleges merits the name change.

“I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, and I think so,” he said. “We should be able to say we have a system with a college in Claremont, a college in Berlin, etc. When they went from the vo-techs to the community colleges they changed the accreditation process and became more of a liberal arts institution offering more liberal arts courses.”

That’s part of the discussion, says Reid, but so is the importance of college ties to the communities they serve.

“That word does denote the fact that we are community centered,” she said, “that we are attuned to community business and industry needs, that we are concerned about the demographics and profile of each community. That’s important, but there is another side to the question.”

She said the system welcomes the opportunity to explore the idea in the context of the legislative process, when it resumes in January: “That will give us an opportunity to talk about it in a broader venue.”

The higher education committee will also consider a recommendation by Reagan to reduce the size of the CCSNH Board of Trustees, which currently stands at 24.

Audit response lauded

The committee accepted a report from the community college system on how it would respond to the recommendations of a recent performance audit that identified several areas in need of improvement.

The 100-page report lays out 29 recommendations, including better oversight of purchasing, more equitable distribution of state aid and better compliance with the state’s Right-to-Know law.

A five-page, color-coded grid outlines each recommendation, the system’s response, the individual responsible for implementing the response, the deadline for implementation and a space for status updates.

“This is the most complete response I have seen to a performance audit,” said Rep. Ken Weyler, R-Kingston. “Too many have either ignored the findings or said ‘We’re working on it’ in a general way. So I was impressed with the fact that they are addressing every finding and saying ‘Here is the plan.’ I find that exceptional and admirable.”

Committee members made it a point to acknowledge much of the good work done by the community college system, despite the findings of the audit and the concern it generated among lawmakers.

“I think we need to identify some good things that are going on here,” said committee member Rep. Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill, who also serves as chair of the House Education Committee.

Ladd and others cited the work the community college system has done to align its curriculum with the training needs of business and industry, and the concurrent enrollment program, which enables high school students to complete some college-level courses while still in high school.

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