A creative and bipartisan-friendly approach to ‘free college’

I never would have guessed that I would hear a “free college” proposal from a Republican politician. Then, I heard about Gov. Chris Sununu’s inaugural speech, and I’m happy to be wrong. With New Hampshire’s student debt climbing to astronomical levels, something needed to be done.

The New Hampshire Academy proposal is ingenious by anyone’s standards: Students participate in a program that partners high schools, community colleges and employers. It’s based on a program that has been successful in Rochester. It would qualify as a charter school, which qualifies for state funding, eliminating the need for students to pay tuition. Students begin earning college credits in high school, and complete essentially a fifth year of school through the Career Academy to earn their associate’s degree and some kind of career credential or certificate. This provides graduates with a direct and clear path to a local employer or industry at no extra cost to taxpayers.

This addresses many of this state’s urgent concerns, not just with mounting student debt, but the need for a skilled workforce and career paths that don’t require obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

I applaud Gov. Sununu for championing a program that speaks to several of the critical issues facing our state, a creative and bipartisan-friendly approach to “free college.”