River Valley signs agreement with Granite State

It's official, Claremont’s River Valley Community College and Granite State College entered into a formal agreement on Tuesday to join forces, giving more opportunities to students of both institutions.

“The hard work starts now,” said Alicia Harvey-Smith, president of River Valley Community College.

The agreement — signed Tuesday and celebrated at Granite State's Concord campus — gives River Valley students the opportunity to earn a bachelor's or master's degree through Granite State’s downtown facility after first completing an associate degree at River Valley. The deal even gives River Valley students the option of being enrolled at both schools at the same time.

“This provides a wonderful opportunity for the region,” said Granite State College  President Roxanne Gonzales.

The deal will allow Granite State students to use the facilities of the River Valley campus, like the library and computers labs, while the River Valley students will have access to some courses and instructors offered through Granite State. This will strengthen the value of both colleges, and give students more options as they pursue their educations and careers, Harvey-Smith said.

“We’re excited to be part of the initiative,” she said.

Harvey-Smith said the deal gives students the opportunity to stay in the city while pursuing degrees that are more advanced. That will lead to better careers and better lives for many people who might not have been able to get a bachelor's or master's degree, she said.

“We are focused on lifting and sustaining our community,” Harvey-Smith explained.

Claremont’s City Manager, Guy Santagate, has been anxious to see such a deal for years, saying a four-year college downtown will change the character of the city. He congratulated Harvey-Smith and Gonzales for their success in getting a deal done.

“I don’t know how you did it, but I’m glad you did,” Santagate said. “It’s not easy breaking new ground.”

The deal between the colleges will  start at a pilot program for the first two years. If it is as successful as expected, the program will expand to include more programs of study and involve more students.

Todd Leach, the chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire, said the deal is becoming the model for the region and New Hampshire. He said it will work because both Granite State and River Valley focus on the needs of the students, and not the institutions.

“I’m very proud of that,” Leach said.

Paul Holloway, chairman of the Community College System of New Hampshire’s Board of Trustees, said the deal will create a ready and educated workforce and means students will not have to leave the state to get the education they need.

“This is very important, around 60 percent of our young people are leaving the state for college,” Holloway said. “That’s not acceptable.”

While Holloway is excited about students staying in New Hampshire, Santagate is excited about the influx of college students to the city’s downtown.

“It not only brings educational opportunities to the region, it brings education, culture and customers to the downtown,” Santagate said.

River Valley is in exploratory talks with the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority to possibly put student housing downtown in the residential portion of the Oscar Brown Block. Claremont’s Mayor James Neilsen said there are many other buildings downtown that could be revitalized if the schools start housing more and more students in the heart of the city.

Eagle Times - by Damien Fisher




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