By Dr. Patrick Tompkins
Greetings, Concord! In February, I joined NHTI – Concord’s Community College as the seventh president, our family having relocated here from Virginia. New Hampshire welcomed us with two feet of snow. On the other hand, the reception by the college and community has been mighty warm, a living example of NHTI’s motto: You belong here.
A Little History
While my roots here are just beginning to find the soil, NHTI’s roots have been firmly planted since 1965 when we opened as the New Hampshire Technical institute. We’re part of a wonderful national story. In 1944, the G.I. Bill significantly increased access to higher education. All across America in the 1960’s, on average one new community college opened each week for a decade, placing every citizen within driving distance of post-secondary opportunity.
It was the greatest democratization of education since the establishment of free K-12 schooling. Ours is a collegiate system unique in the world, offering both access and excellence.
Some folks still call us “the Tech,” and we’re proud of that. But we’re also Concord’s Community College with over 100 digital badges, certificates, and associate degrees in technology, healthcare, human services, art, and college transfer pathways for Granite Staters.
But recent years have not been easy for your community college. There’s little need to talk about the impact of COVID—you’ve lived that yourself. Higher education, like most sectors of our economy, is changing rapidly. Tremendous forces of what Joseph Schumpeter called creative destruction bear upon us all the time.
Since 2012, enrollment at community colleges nationally has fallen, and this is true at NHTI. One factor is a demographic decline in the number of high school graduates. Another reason is when employment is as low as 2.8% in New Hampshire, people focus on the world of work, rather than their further education, even if today’s job is no guarantor of tomorrow’s career.
More troubling, some of our neighbors and our children have lost faith in the value of a post-secondary education. At the same time that today’s employment landscape requires technical skills, scientific knowledge, and essential skills, like problem solving and mindfulness, some potential students see in colleges only high student debt and uncertain outcomes. They don’t believe they belong here.
Watch Us Lead
My commitment to you, on behalf of NHTI, is to energetically pursue our mission as Concord’s community college. Our 240-acre campus is the largest among New Hampshire’s community colleges and includes dorms, a gym, athletic fields, and a public boat launch. We’re the only New Hampshire community college with 11 sports teams with national championship banners hanging from the rafters in our gym. We have one-of-a-kind programs, such as Dental Hygiene and Radiation Therapy.
When asked to name the best attribute of community colleges, many people will say it’s our low cost. Yes, we are less than half the cost of New Hampshire’s universities, but that’s not our greatest value proposition. Quality is.
We keep the size of our classes low so students receive individual attention from gifted faculty dedicated to their learning.
Our schedules are flexible, offering programs and courses day, evening, weekends, online, and on Zoom. Some of our workforce training programs can be completed in a week, and our degree programs can be taken full-time, part-time, and on an accelerated path.
Through our dual enrollment and early college programs, students can graduate high school with college credits, and even an associate degree.
In NHTI’s Educated Person philosophy statement, we promise New Hampshire graduates the knowledge and skills to be successful in their communities, workplaces, and all their life roles. Our alumni are communicators, collaborators, innovators, and career-ready professionals.
Thank you to those who have welcomed me to the community with open arms. I look forward to connecting with students and businesses to help them reach their educational and workforce goals. Together, we can address issues of importance to our economy and community.
Patrick Tompkins has worked in higher education for over three decades, serving at multiple colleges in Virginia and now New Hampshire. In addition to serving at NHTI, he is a guest scholar at Old Dominion University. He is married, and the couple has a 9-year old son. They live in Concord.