A Matter Of Degrees

  The week started with the news of Southern New Hampshire University’s new $10,000 bachelor’s degree program. Recent undergraduate enrollment numbers show the small, Manchester school is now equal in size to UNH in Durham, with a vast majority of its students online. 

For our week-long series A Matter of Degrees, NHPR reporters and programs produced stories about the issues facing colleges and universities throughout New Hampshire.

This first map links to most of the content. Play arrow icons represent radio and video stories, stars are web-only and print features.

Sean Hurley

Enrollment in the network of seven community colleges in New Hampshire nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010. But while overall growth is up, the North Country’s White Mountains Community College is seeing a decline. 

Go to a restaurant, school or office in the North Country and chances are you'll find a White Mountains graduate.

You see em at the hospitals, you see em at the doctor's office you see em in the schools. 

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

At a recent cookout behind the red-brick mill building that houses UNH Manchester, senior Derek Burkhardt describes what’s been an eight-year run to get his bachelor’s.

“I actually attended UNH Manchester right out of high school,” says Burkhardt. “But I took some time off in between school to save up some money to be able to afford school, but also to join AmeriCorps. So once I was done with that I came back to continue my education.”

Like many students here Burkhardt says he chose UNH Manchester because that’s where he lives.

Michael Samuels


An on-campus eatery makes sustainability a learning experience.

LividFiction via flickr Creative Commons

Back in 2005, writer David Foster Wallace delivered the commencement address, "This is Water" At Kenyon College. Three years later, the acclaimed novelist committed suicide, but his speech lives on – and has become sort-of The Places You’ll Go of the digital age: shared on social media, and re-published in print around graduation time.

In Defense Of Millennials

May 8, 2014
via davidburstein.com

David Burstein is an author and founder of Generation 18, a nonpartisan young voter engagement organization, as well as a documentary filmmaker. He wrote Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World and joined us to talk about why he is defending millennials against being labeled aimless, risk-averse, and narcissistic.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Under the federal Clery Act, colleges and universities are required to report crime statistics. This chart measures total reported forcible sexual offenses involving students, on and off-campus, at each New Hampshire school.

The numbers are not adjusted to account for enrollment, which would allow for a better comparison. For example, with a 2012 undergraduate enrollment of 12,565, UNH sees 1.67 incidences per capita - while, with an enrollment of 6,277, Dartmouth sees 3.82 per capita.

Research suggests as many 95 percent of campus rapes and sexual assaults go unreported.

George Saunders: "Congratulations, By The Way"

May 8, 2014
Jason Bache via flickr Creative Commons

In 2013, writer, journalist, and college professor George Saunders made a short speech at a graduation ceremony that quickly went viral. He was speaking to the class of 2013 at Syracuse University where he teaches.

FreemanSchool / Flickr/CC

We’re continuing our series “A Matter of Degrees” with a look at what it means to be “career ready.”  There’s a lot of angst about whether college graduates have the skills they need for today’s workforce, especially science, math, and writing. Some are saying it’s time to rethink which courses students really need, which they don’t, and whether employer expectations are reasonable.


Allison Quantz for NHPR

Susy Struble was a 16-year-old high school student when, during a weekend visit to Dartmouth College, she was raped at an off-campus party.

Like many rape victims, Struble chose not to tell anyone about the assault, and two years later, she was back at Dartmouth as a student.

One night during her freshman year, she opened her door to a tall, sandy-haired man. Obviously drunk, he forced his way in, pushed Struble against the wall and tried to kiss her. Struble was able to fend off her attacker, who she realized was the same man who had raped her two years earlier.

via UNH website

Earlier this year, the Obama administration formed a White House Task Force to Protect Students from sexual assault.

Recently that task force announced a series of actions to identify the scope of the problem and help schools with prevention. One of the programs the administration highlighted is the Prevention Innovations initiative at the University of New Hampshire.  I talked with Jane Stapleton, a co-director, and asked her to explain the program:

Emily Corwin

  By the mid-April at Keene State College, 13 students remained in professor Kristen Porter-Utley’s freshman biology lecture. Two had dropped out.  Keene State's Dean of Sciences and Social Sciences, Gordon Leversee,  says this is not unusual in science classes around the country.  Here, science students are 2 to 3 times more likely to get a D, an F, to withdraw, or receive an incomplete than students in other classes. 

Campus Life: Therapy Dog Eases Finals Stress At UNH

May 8, 2014
Melissa Proulx for The New Hampshire

With a name like Hamilton, there’s little doubt that the big white Great Dane mix wandering around UNH's Durham campus belongs there. 

UNH Health Services’ new therapy dog has been visiting students in dorms and academic buildings, a welcomed stress reliever during the whirlwind that is finals.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

If it seems like, these days, everyone is talking about STEM - that now common acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math programs - it's because they are.

In this animated two-way, we take a look at what the push for STEM means for the state - from our public university system, to the State House, and through the business community - and for students.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

All week long, our NHPR News, The Exchange, and Word of Mouth will be taking a look at higher education in New Hampshire for our special series, A Matter of Degrees. 

We're also letting students from around the state weigh in during Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and will be posting their reflections right here.

Monday's Student Minute:

Some of the troubles plaguing higher education are hitting institutions a lot harder in New Hampshire. High public tuition? We have the highest. State aid to public universities? We have among the lowest. For many students, that means they're facing huge debts which will be difficult to repay. That reality is causing students and institutions to reevaluate.

via Q1045

This week NHPR is taking a close look at higher education in the state with our special series A Matter of Degrees. But funding higher ed is a perennial issue that we've been tracking for almost as long as we've been broadcasting.  

Pay-For-Play: NCAA Athletes' Rights

May 7, 2014
Davey83 via flickr Creative Commons

Earlier this year, the National Labor Relations board ruled that college football players at Northwestern University are considered employees and could form a union. The NCAA and Northwestern University promptly appealed the ruling, arguing that student athletes are not “employees” under federal law. The two sides might see some resolution as early as next week when the house education and workforce committee will hold hearings on the case in DC. The Pay-for-Play  model is just one issue in the broader college athletes’ rights movement.

Unusual College Courses: Zombies In Popular Media

May 7, 2014
Mark Lobo via flickr Creative Commons

Brendan Riley is an associate professor of English at Columbia College Chicago where he teaches writing, media studies, and literature courses. He has been teaching "Zombies in Popular Media" during January terms since 2007.

Getting In: What It Means To Be "College Ready"

May 7, 2014

We’re continuing our series “A Matter of Degrees” with a look at what it means to be college ready.   A common complaint is that freshmen arrive without the fundamentals of writing and math.  Meanwhile, the nation’s top tier schools are tougher than ever to get into – and students are playing an admissions game, figuring out the right mix of grades, extra-curriculars and experiences. 


Sheryl Rich-Kern for NHPR

At New Hampshire colleges and universities, about 70 percent of faculty members are off the tenure track. And a good percentage of those non-tenured professors are part-time.

Amanda Loder / NHPR

For years, universities have been looking for creative ways to drum up cash as their costs increase.  The most straightforward way to increase revenue is to bring in more students.  And for Plymouth State University, that meant heading south to the Caribbean in a rare partnership deal that some see as controversial.

(Infographic: By The Numbers: PSU's Partnership With American University of Antigua)

Via UNH website

A 2013 report says 3,095 international students pursued higher education in New Hampshire; that was up 6.3 percent from the previous year. That report also estimates the foreign student expenditure in the state at $103 million dollars. To get an idea about the trend and what it means for schools both here and nationally, I spoke with Karin Fischer, a senior writer at the Chronicle of Higher Education. She covers international education issues.  

Unusual College Courses: How To Win A Beauty Pageant

May 6, 2014

At the collegiate level, there are many courses that take an unorthodox approach to core subjects.

Case in point, Oberlin College's "How to Win a Beauty Pageant: Race, Gender, Culture, and U.S. National Identity." Here's Oberlin Assistant Professor Afia Ofori-Mensa talking about it:

via Q1045

It was the high school commencement address heard ‘round the world. When English teacher David McCullough, Jr. addressed 2012 graduates from the public high school in Wellesley, Massachusetts, he told them, "You are not special."

Weston College / Flickr/CC

We continue our series “A Matter of Degrees” with how families finance higher education.  With the price tag ever-rising, and grants scarce, students are shopping-around and cobbling together a variety of funding approaches.  Often, that includes taking on more debt, but also re-thinking that traditional model of a four-year, on-campus College experience.


NHPR / Michael Brindley

The way the dean of the UNH School of Law John Broderick describes it, the precipitous drop in enrollment came on fast and furious.

“I don’t think anyone saw it coming. I don’t think anyone quite knows whether it’s over.”

According to the American Bar Association, enrollment at law schools across the country dropped by 11 percent last year, and is down by 23 percent since 2010.

And the University of New Hampshire School of Law hasn’t been immune.

Colleges See Summer As Potential Revenue Source

May 6, 2014
Todd Bookman / NHPR

The men of Dartmouth were treated to a heroes’ welcome each fall.

“October, 1947, and the campus is rejuvenated after the slow, sleepy quiescence of the summer weeks,” reads the stoic narrator of an old film reel. “The college town of Hanover throbs excitedly with new life.”

Hanover has been throbbing year-round since the 1970s, though, when Dartmouth became the last Ivy League to accept women.