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Some N.H. Colleges Are Bucking Low Enrollment Trends


Many New Hampshire colleges have been struggling with declining applicant and enrollment numbers for years. But a few campuses are growing.

Southern New Hampshire University just opened a new dorm to accommodate a record number of on-campus students - about 3,000. And the incoming classes at Plymouth State University, Saint Anselm College and New England College are some of those schools' largest ever.

Mike Vlacich, President and CEO of the New Hampshire College and University Council, welcomed the news.

"To be honest," he said, "any increase at all is significant."

New Hampshire's greying population and high tuition rates have made it hard for schools to maintain enrollment, let alone increase it.

As a result, Vlacich says: "Schools are having to figure out how to become better at attracting, better at retaining, and better at innovating how they do business."

As part of their innovations, some colleges are recruiting more international students. Others, like New England College, are focusing outreach on minority students, expanding online classes and adding degrees in fields like cybersecurity and electronic gaming design.

Early numbers from the Community College System of New Hampshire show enrollment is slightly down across the state, but retention is up.

The Division of Higher Education at the NHDOE says it will release a more comprehensive review of enrollment numbers in October.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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