In a Nutshell: Granite State College curriculum benefits adult learners in New Hampshire through its affordable programs in sought-after fields, including business, education, and technology. As students progress, a dedicated team of academic advisors continue to teach and guide them. Granite State’s virtual courses, its acceptance of previously earned credits, and professional training make its tuition one of the lowest in the state. And if students need to take out loans, advisors help them understand that debt and how to make smart financial decisions.
Being a state fire marshal is a rigorous job as the fire service is at the center of emergency medical services, emergency management, and charged with the protection of life, property, and the environment. It is a role that has become increasingly important and challenging during the pandemic. The demands of that job prevented one marshal from completing his college degree not once, but twice. Both times, he was forced to let his education fall by the wayside to care for his family and satisfy professional needs. School just didn’t fit into the equation.
But as his adult son entered college, the marshal was inspired to continue his education. The father and son ended up graduating at the same time, and the proud fire marshal-turned-scholar shared his story at his Granite State College commencement ceremony.
Granite State is part of the New Hampshire’s public higher education system, and primarily focuses on serving adult students who seek productive degrees. U.S. News and World Report recognized Granite State’s top-ranking degree programs and rated it the most affordable four-year college in New Hampshire. Its programs are designed to meet the needs of adult learners, and it delivers 94% of its courses online.
“Granite State is a college that has always served adult students,” said Tara Payne, Vice President of Enrollment at Granite State. “We’re affordable, and we’ve got some relevant programs that can help people advance.”
Students can earn associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees as well as teaching certifications while maintaining jobs, raising families, and living fulfilling lives.
“Everything we do is about what the student needs,” Payne said. “It’s about how we can help you improve your life and your family’s life. It is also about how you can apply what you’re learning directly to help support your employer’s goals, industry goals, and your ambitions.”
Programs, Professors, and Advisors Empower Students
Granite State offers more than 40 different degrees and certifications, including master’s degrees and graduate certificates. They cover business management, finance, public safety, healthcare, and technology.
Students can mix and match majors and minors to meet their individual learning and professional goals. For example, business majors can, and, according to Payne, often do, add accounting, operations management, and information technology minors. And psychology majors often pair their primary courses with court advocacy or addiction studies.
Granite State has a high ratio of adjunct professors — educators who teach part time. Larger colleges and universities often use adjunct faculty simply as a means of keeping internal costs low, but at Granite State, expertise and excellence always come first.
“We see people who are CEOs of companies, school principals, and attorneys teach classes for us,” Payne said. “These are people who are credentialed, experienced, and for many of them, this is the giving back part.”
And the school’s dedication to student success doesn’t stop at the classroom door. Granite State assigns its students with advisors who will help guide their academic careers. Students who need to see an advisor at larger schools may end up meeting with whoever is in the office. But at Granite State, the dynamic is far more personal.
“We have an advisor we’ve already assigned to work with you from your first day until the day you graduate,” Payne said.
That personalized attention from an educational professional is critical to success. Under an advisor’s guidance, students enjoy a consistent, devoted mentorship experience throughout their academic careers.
Online Programs and Prior Learning Assessment Keep Tuition Affordable
Granite State is primarily an online college and has eliminated many of the overhead costs that drive up the cost of brick-and-mortar college tuition. Those include significant maintenance of buildings for classrooms and offices, landscaping and property management, and upkeep on physical library resources. Granite State does have one library, and its contents are also available 100% online, as is support from its expert librarian.
Granite State’s physical locations are single-building administrative and advisory centers. Without physical classrooms and facility costs, the college passes those savings on to students in the form of lower tuition and fees.
“We’re the most affordable in New Hampshire,” Payne said. “The price is where it should be. And if anything, our president has been trying to drive prices down.”
Prior Learning Assessments are another way Granite State saves students money. Many colleges can raise student costs by refusing to honor course credit earned at another institution or a certain number of years ago. That can force students to retake — and pay for — classes they have already completed.
But at Granite State, a dedicated academic affairs team examines transfer credits and previous professional training to evaluate student outcomes and competencies. That process ensures the value of their prior education toward achieving their degrees.
“We’re not making people retake classes because their English 101 is different from our English 101,” Payne said. “We honor prior learning. If someone received a solid grade in a course 10 years ago, they can bring it to Granite State, and we will assess it for their program and let them earn college credit. There are very few exceptions to that.”
Financial Aid Helps Students Earn Degrees Without Unnecessary Debt
As of early 2020, the total U.S. consumer debt stood at $13.86 trillion, according to Debt.org. A significant portion of that debt comes from student loans — about $1.56 trillion, a number that even surpasses credit card debt, which NPR reports at $1 trillion. Student loan debt is one of the most significant financial problems for American consumers, especially in these increasingly uncertain economic times.
Granite State is committed to helping students minimize their debt and manage it responsibly after graduation. It offers a simple, virtual loan application process that enables students to easily access the funds they need for their education.
Many Granite State students juggle work, school, and family, and some learners may be tempted to take out extra funds to help manage living expenses. However, Granite State’s loan education and guidance encourage them to borrow only what they need to complete their education. And it ensures they understand the long-term consequences of student loan debt.
It does so, once again, through its network of advisors. Instead of shuttling students off to a financial aid officer, advisors are well-versed in finance and debt, and they offer valuable guidance.
“At our school, our advisors get into the money conversation early with people,” Payne said. “The advisors all know about financial aid, and many of them went through training with our local financial aid association.”
Granite State Partnerships Enhance Opportunities
Granite State recently launched a new partnership with the State of New Hampshire. Under the pact, government workers, including part-time, seasonal workers, full-time employees, are eligible for an additional discount on tuition.
“I think that’s going to help uplift a whole workforce of people and help us fulfill our public mission,” Payne said. “That’s a big thing for us.”
Granite State also launched new programs in emergency management and supply chain management for the fall 2020 semester. But the biggest change was perhaps the school’s new leadership role in a changing educational system. As veterans of successful mass virtual education, other institutions are now looking to Granite State for guidance as learning at all levels moves increasingly online.
“Within the system, we now offer that advice about how to do online learning well, and how you have faculty who are equipped and capable of doing that. We also talk about how you help orient students who haven’t been in a classroom for many years, and now their classroom is virtual,” Payne said.
As always, Granite State is happy to share experience and wisdom and help other institutions offer a higher level of education and value. Those schools, in turn, will help more students advance their personal and professional lives.