On Friday, March 15, Keene State College, University System of New Hampshire (USNH) officials, business and civic leaders, legislators and community partners from nonprofit organizations met in Concord for the second annual Summit on Higher Education. The summit is presented by the New Hampshire College and University Council (NHCUC) and is held with the goal of addressing critical issues facing New Hampshire and higher education today.
Director of Outreach, Communications and New Hampshire Scholars for NHCUC and KSC alum Scott Power describes NHCUC as the unofficial voice for higher education in New Hampshire.
“Essentially NHCUC is a higher education consortium of private, nonprofit, public, two-year, four-year, all of the colleges and universities in New Hampshire, a kind of chamber of commerce for higher education,” Power said.
Some of the KSC officials who attended the summit are KSC Provost Nancy Fey-Yensan and Vice President for Enrollment Strategy, Marketing and Communication Jeff Holeman. Holeman said one of his goals in attending the conference was to have an opportunity to speak with people in similar positions as him at other institutions and share and discuss solutions to challenges they face.
“Any time you have a chance to step out of the office for a moment and get together with individuals with similar backgrounds and like-minded approaches to the challenges that you have and come up with solutions, that’s very beneficial,” Holeman said. “It’s an opportunity to have that dialogue and think about different ways we can look at these solutions.”
An example that Holeman offered of that collaboration in action is if KSC looked at the way Franklin Pierce University, for example, may be addressing a certain issue, and asking if that could that apply here at KSC. This also works vice versa; if someone from Franklin Pierce saw a solution to a challenge that was working for KSC, they could collaborate to implement a similar strategy.
“[The summit is] basically a collaboration of all the stakeholders related to higher education,” Power said. “College officials, college presidents, members from our campuses, which could be admissions, CFOs, academic affairs, career directors, a lot of legislators, business leaders, community partners from nonprofits as well, and some K12 people will also attend.”
That is one of the purposes of the summit: To create an open dialogue to better the communication and problem-solving across college and university campuses in New Hampshire. Financial aid, student enrollment and how to get students in and out of state to pursue their higher education in New Hampshire are other relevant issues. The 65/25 project is another goal for higher education in New Hampshire. By 2025, New Hampshire aims to have 65 percent of adults ages 25 to 64 to have some form of higher education. This is going to require colleges and universities to begin marketing towards people already in the workforce who may have the opportunity to go back to school and advance their education.
Another issue on the agenda for this year’s summit was a panel on mental health awareness. Participating institutions and experts on the topic shared ideas on how to address mental health concerns on campuses.
“This is a very significant topic for us working in Higher Education and at Keene in particular as we are fully focused on our students’ success as a whole person here at Keene State,” Fey-Yensan said. “Importantly, students cannot be fully successful if they are not healthy, either while here with us, or when entering the workforce once they earn their degree.”
Holeman also said that mental health is an important component to consider not only for current students, but students as they are enrolling for college.
“How can we be more cognizant and aware of what students may be facing?” Holeman said. “If they have a parent or guardian who is dealing with a mental health issue, and also thinking about students who may be facing a mental health issue themselves, how do we work with them and provide appropriate services and solutions to help them not only apply for college, but how do we help onboard them and support them throughout their college experience?”
The summit has multiple goals. It allows professionals in the higher education field to network and share ideas, panels inform attendees of current issues facing college and university campuses, and it also helps showcase the importance of a college degree in today’s day and age.
“Students who have degrees, they’re healthier across their lifetime, they’re more likely to get into a career they really want to be in, they’re less likely to commit crime during their lifetime,” Power said “There’s so many data points that showcase the value of degree in today’s age.”
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at