DERRY — The University of New Hampshire has partnered with Pinkerton Academy to launch UNH First Step, a two-year pilot concurrent credit program. Beginning this fall, Pinkerton juniors and seniors will have the opportunity to simultaneously earn high school and UNH credit in select high school courses.

“As the state’s flagship public university, we are committed to building partnerships that foster education at every age,” said Wayne Jones, UNH provost and vice president for academic affairs. “UNH First Step brings high school and college educators together with the shared goal to advance academic excellence and opportunity for New Hampshire students.”

Jones says Pinkerton was a natural fit for the partnership given the quality of faculty and curricular offerings in many subjects, including communications and computer science. Timothy Powers, headmaster of Pinkerton Academy, echoed that sentiment.

“We are always seeking to improve the quality of learning and teaching at Pinkerton, and UNH is a key partner in that mission,” Powers said.

Through UNH First Step, New Hampshire high school students can earn UNH credit in their high school computer science and communication arts courses. Pinkerton teachers have worked with faculty from UNH Manchester to develop courses that align high school learning activities with UNH academic rigor and expectations.

Mihaela Sabin, professor of computer science at UNH Manchester, has been actively involved in expanding computer science education in the state’s K-12 system. She says UNH First Step furthers that commitment by increasing opportunities to broader participation in college-level curriculum.

“Computing careers are in high-demand in New Hampshire and nationally, so building computer science into the curriculum early on is crucial,” Sabin said, adding that computer science is now a core component of K-12 education in the state thanks to a bill passed into law last year. “This collaboration not only improves the implementation of the new curricular standards, but also supports and empowers students to learn computing skills that they can carry into their college and professional careers.”

Through a thorough analysis of research, What Works Clearinghouse found strong evidence that concurrent credit programs improve the transition to college as well as degree attainment, particularly for students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education. UNH Manchester Dean Mike Decelle says expanding UNH First Step to more New Hampshire high schools could encourage students to go to college, particularly in New Hampshire.

“Our ultimate goal is to make college more accessible to New Hampshire students,” Decelle said. “When students choose to stay here, they become part of the workforce engine that strengthens our state’s economy.”

According to a 2016 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, 61 percent of New Hampshire high school graduates leave the state to pursue their four-year degrees. The key to lowering that statistic is building stronger pathways to the state’s post-secondary institutions, says New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.

“By enabling students to earn college credit in their own high school classrooms, programs like UNH First Step pave the way to academic opportunities at our in-state institutions,” Edelblut said.

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