Issues: Higher Education

A Plan to Lower College Costs, Cut Student Debt, & Boost New Hampshire’s Workforce

In order to take the next step forward for New Hampshire’s economy, our next Governor must make it a top state priority to cut college costs, cut student debt, and strengthen our workforce.

To do so, we must modernize our state higher education system as a whole — from career and technical education in high schools to community colleges, four-year degrees, and job-training — with a clear vision: lower costs, cut debt, and boost workplace relevance.

Colin Van Ostern is a proven education innovator who helped launch College for America at Southern New Hampshire University — a nonprofit, accredited college that helps working adults achieve a college degree, most completely debt-free. Today, the school has partnered with more than 100 businesses to help working adults earn an accredited certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. In the 2015-2016 academic year, the school enrolled more than 4,600 new students — as many as UNH and Dartmouth, combined. Seventy-one percent of students are the first in their family to go to college, most graduate with zero debt, and academic performance and graduation rates far exceed peer schools nationally. College for America has now been cited as a national model for ‘upskilling workers’ by stakeholders from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Colin knows that the academic solution for a mid-career working adult at College for America is different than an 18-year-old living in a dorm, or a graduate student creating new knowledge that revolutionizes an industry. But throughout New Hampshire there is opportunity for more state support — and modernization — in our higher education landscape.

Here is how we cut costs, cut student debt, and boost our New Hampshire workforce:

  • Tie increased state support for public higher education funding to clear accountability goals for the first time — including reductions in student debt, in-state enrollment levels, and graduation numbers into sectors of key workforce demand. We can’t afford to still be funding our university system at pre-recession levels. But increased state support must be tied to clear outcomes-based measurement to ensure more efficient use of tax dollars and direct impact on state economic growth. Additionally, New Hampshire must push to allow students to refinance federal loans at lower rates. And like Governor John Kasich has done in Ohio, Colin will work to establish a task force comprised of employers, legislators, educators and administrators, and labor in order to identify cost savings without harming education levels or quality.
  • Better connect higher education pathways across all academic levels to ensure lower-cost completion. Today some of our most important higher education occurs in Career and Technical Education in our high schools; dual-credit programs like Running Start and STEAM Ahead; and promising but still-narrow dual-enrollment programs between community colleges and our state universities. Earning part of a degree in high school, community college, or a trade program can significantly lower out-of-pocket costs for a four-year degree down the road, but these paths need to be available for every student and expanded in key 21st century sectors like Information Technology and Computer Science.

    As Governor, Colin will boost dual-credit programs, pathways, and guaranteed transfer credits and programs between Career Technical Education in high schools, Community Colleges, and four-year degrees at USNH schools to minimize unnecessary credit requirements and help students complete degrees more efficiently. Colin will also work with higher education leaders to expand the New Hampshire Dual Admission Program between CCSNH and USNH to in-demand STEM programs including information technology and computer science.
  • Bring employers closer into higher education to boost workforce relevance. To better ensure degrees are relevant to employers and that our public higher education investments result in a stronger state workforce to drive business growth, Colin will support sector-based partnerships between employers and higher education and K12 to identify needed training, and improve communication and coordination between higher education institutions and growing industries. This will build on successful direct partnerships like BAE’s successful partnership with UNH and Albany Safran’s composite manufacturing programs with Great Bay Community College.

    New Hampshire will involve employers more directly in degree program development and partnerships and invest in job/vocation training. Colin will also enact job training like the Gateway to Work program to help re-purpose public welfare dollars into job training, and fund apprenticeships in high-labor need areas like manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology.


Paid for by Van Ostern for New Hampshire. Debby Butler, Treasurer.
P.O. Box 3931, Manchester, NH 03105 • (603) 232-5538