Cost and Access in Higher Education

Northern Essex Community College (NECC), is a community college in Massachusetts with two campuses, one in Haverhill and the other in Lawrence, the state’s poorest city. eUNH is part of the University of New Hampshire (UNH), a land-, sea-, and space-grant university located in both Durham (main campus) and Manchester, NH. The two colleges are about 40 miles from one another. However eUNH is a virtual campus offering online classes and programs to students worldwide and NECC serves one of the poorest regions in the state.

One thing that stood out to me was both NECC and eUNH addressed cost in their mission statements. One of the missions of NECC was to offer affordable adult education and one of the main ideas behind eUNH is to reduce total cost of degree completion. Knowing cost is one of the hot topics in higher education, it was interesting to see this issue addressed in the mission statements of two New England colleges. The other issue I see addressed by the missions of NECC and eUNH is that of access. Both schools are striving to be accessible to the people. Having lived in northern New England for 10 years, I know there are parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine without convenient access to a college and commuting to the Boston area for school is not always a feasible or affordable option for people.

As a Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise (HNFE) student in the community behavior track, I am currently involved with a National Institutes of Health grant that entails working with residents of rural Appalachian counties in southwestern Virginia. Because of this experience, I am constantly thinking about cost and access of things like health care and education. We know in HNFE there is a strong positive correlation between health and education. Ideally, everyone would have access to education and health care, but this is not the current reality. So, I am pleased to see these two issues addressed in the mission statements of two very different, but geographically proximal schools.