Sen. Maggie Hassan

Sen. Maggie Hassan

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan introduced a new education bill Wednesday, seeking to build off of New Hampshire’s dual-enrollment programs to better codify ways at the federal level for high-schoolers to get college credit.

Hassan, a Democrat, is the lead cosponsor of the Fast Track To and Through College Act, along with Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.

The bill would allow high-schoolers enrolled in early-college programs to stockpile as much as a full year of college credits to use once they arrive on campus, according to a news release from Hassan’s office.

Taking a two-birds-with-one-stone approach, the legislation would seek to bolster workforce development and mitigate the burden of costly tuition nationwide.

While the University System of New Hampshire recently announced it will freeze in-state tuition for the 2020-21 school year, the University of New Hampshire in Durham remains one of the most expensive state schools for in-state students in the country.

College tuition is rising eight-times faster than wages, according to a Forbes analysis, leaving many millennials saddled with student debt.

Dual enrollment programs aim to expedite the process, letting kids get a head start with credits in high school by taking some classes not offered by the district and, hopefully, spending less on tuition by graduating from college earlier.

In the Monadnock Region, Keene State College, Franklin Pierce University and River Valley Community College all participate in dual enrollment programs.

High schools with such programs include Keene High School, Hinsdale High School, Fall Mountain Regional High School in Langdon, Monadnock Regional High School in Swanzey Center, Conant High School in Jaffrey and ConVal Regional High School in Peterborough.

Under Hassan and Young’s proposal, public colleges and universities would be required to accept credit from the early-start programs.

Hassan’s bill earned praise from Ross Gittell, chancellor of the state’s community college system.

“The Community College System of New Hampshire was an early leader in dual and concurrent enrollment opportunities for high school students, and these programs have supported student achievement and success across the Granite State, Gittell said in a statement. “We appreciate and support the bipartisan efforts of Sen. Hassan and her colleagues to build an even stronger continuum of learning between secondary and postsecondary education in the United States.”

Another major component of the bill would expand access to early-college programs by allowing Pell grants — government tuition assistance that does not need to be paid back like a loan — to cover the remaining credits for students moving onto college from dual-enrollment programs.

In a statement to The Sentinel, Hassan credited Granite Staters for leading the way in education reform.

“New Hampshire high schools are leading the country in enabling high schoolers to earn college credits — which challenges them academically, better prepares them for college, and can even save them on future tuition costs,” Hassan said.

“I’m glad to work across the aisle to help expand and support high-quality early college programs, so that even more high school students can have access to them and ensure that their hard work will count for credit once they start college.”

Jake Lahut can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or jlahut@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @JakeLahut.