Don’t let COVID derail your college plans

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O P I N I O N

THE SOAPBOX

Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.


The COVID-19 pandemic caused a huge disruption to New Hampshire students when our schools shifted to remote instruction in April. But that’s not the only disruption faced by New Hampshire families. The economic toll of the pandemic has also been devastating. For families planning to send their kids to college this fall, forced unemployment and a stalled economy have put those plans in doubt.

Heading off to college is a major landmark, and a major financial commitment. Some Granite Staters forced out of work by the pandemic may think that college has been pushed out of reach. But there are options available to help make sure COVID-19 does not derail students’ paths to bright futures.

Many colleges and universities are expanding their online courses in the fall, at a substantial discount to on-campus instruction. You can ask your new school to re-examine the financial aid package it offered before the pandemic in light of your family’s changed circumstances. The New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation (NHHEAF) has a team of counselors standing by the help Granite State families plan for college. Call them at (888) 747-2382 ext. 119.

Another great option for families trying to make college affordable is the New Hampshire National Guard. The New Hampshire Guard and New Hampshire colleges have a long and successful partnership. In fact, service in the Guard includes a 100 percent tuition waiver for all New Hampshire state colleges, including UNH, Keene State, Plymouth State, Granite State College, and the Community College System of New Hampshire.

For New Hampshire students going to private colleges, the Montgomery G.I. Bill offers up to $392 per month while also paying for apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Some enlistment contracts include up to $50,000 in student loan repayments. The Army Credentialing Assistance (CA) Program can pay for courses and exams that lead to industry-recognized civilian credentials in an occupational area of your choice.

The New Hampshire National Guard gives young Granite Staters the opportunity to Live, Learn, and Serve in New Hampshire. Answering the call to serve during the pandemic, more than 100-college students currently serving in the NHNG were activated to help their fellow citizens by supporting the NH Food Bank provide food to those in need, PPE distribution, COVID testing, COVID mapping, call center support for unemployment claims, and many other missions.

Students at UNH, Plymouth State, Southern New Hampshire University, or Dartmouth College could consider the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) available at those schools. Students can qualify for up to 100 percent tuition scholarships, among many other benefits, and would graduate not only with a bachelor’s degree, but also a commission in the active-duty Army or the National Guard.

Of course, incoming freshmen are not the only students facing financial hardships because of COVID-19. The NHHEAF network recently committed nearly $400,000 for mini-scholarships for New Hampshire college students this fall.

Eligible Granite State students returning to a New Hampshire college or university as sophomores, juniors, and seniors who can demonstrate a health or financial impact from COVID-19 can receive a scholarship designed to cover a three-credit course; $650 for students in the Community College System, and $1,250 for those attending a four-year campus.

These mini-grants are can help close the financial gap that COVID-19 may have left in the home budget. Learn more at www.NHHEAF.org.

After years of hard work and saving, a viral pandemic has thrown college plans for too many New Hampshire students up in the air. That’s why so many people across our state are working to keep these students on their educational pathways. These are just a handful of the programs out there to help keep New Hampshire students on track to bright futures.


 

Frank Edelblut is Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education.