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Education is key topic at CEO Forum

Union Leader Correspondent

January 18. 2018 10:11PM
Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, spoke about breaking down barriers between colleges and K-12 programs Thursday morning at a forum for CEOs at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. (KIMBERLY HAAS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

DURHAM — The Community College System of New Hampshire has the responsibility to provide education for as many people as possible, Chancellor Ross Gittell says.

Part of the problem is breaking down barriers between higher education and K-12 programs, Gittell said during a CEO Forum at the University of New Hampshire Thursday morning. Children in middle school need to be given opportunities to learn more about the stable and high paying jobs in their own communities, so they can start thinking about how they may play a role at local companies in the future, he said.

“Why are we afraid of exposing people in grades K-12 to work?” Gittell asked.

Gittell suggested more tours of manufacturing plants, banks and other workplaces before students reach the end of eighth grade and need to sign up for high-school courses.

The next step is educating school counselors and parents about the various ways children can obtain degrees, even if it seems financially impossible. Through the Running Start Program, for example, high school students can earn college credit while also completing the requirements for high school graduation. Those students can walk out of high school with enough credits for half of their associates degree, Gittell said.

Through the dual admission programs offered in New Hampshire, students who earn their associates degree at a state community colleges can transfer to UNH and start taking classes as a junior if they want to continue their education.

Gittell said it isn’t just about getting students in the door, it’s a about ensuring their lifelong success. The community college system in New Hampshire is among the top 10 percent in the country when it comes to economic mobility.

Data shows the median income for community college graduates at age 34 is $34,170 in New Hampshire. In Massachusetts, the median income at age 34 is $30,800.

With the goal of having 65 percent of adults 25 and older with a certificate or advanced degree by 2025, Gittell said community college leaders are constantly thinking about the labor demands of the future.

“We can’t just think of 65 by ’25 as training for the jobs available today on We’re thinking about the future jobs,” Gittell said.

The next UNH CEO Forum will be held March 22. John Stiker, CEO of Stonewall Kitchen, will be speaking.

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