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Three Higher Educational Opportunities in the Upper Valley

  • Students studying modern dairy farming at Vermont Technical Center get hands-on experience in the agriculture center. Here, Cody Brouillard, left, and Anna Jo Smith practice removing pulsators from milking units.<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Students studying modern dairy farming at Vermont Technical Center get hands-on experience in the agriculture center. Here, Cody Brouillard, left, and Anna Jo Smith practice removing pulsators from milking units.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

  • Chris Dutton, a professor of dairy management at Vermont Technical College in Randolph, runs a test on the rebuilt pulsator that students Meg Urie, center, and Anna Jo Smith, right, built as part of their lab work in the agriculture center. Job-related experience is one of the hallmarks of an education at VTC.<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Chris Dutton, a professor of dairy management at Vermont Technical College in Randolph, runs a test on the rebuilt pulsator that students Meg Urie, center, and Anna Jo Smith, right, built as part of their lab work in the agriculture center. Job-related experience is one of the hallmarks of an education at VTC.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

  • Students studying modern dairy farming at Vermont Technical Center get hands-on experience in the agriculture center. Here, Cody Brouillard, left, and Anna Jo Smith practice removing pulsators from milking units.<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Chris Dutton, a professor of dairy management at Vermont Technical College in Randolph, runs a test on the rebuilt pulsator that students Meg Urie, center, and Anna Jo Smith, right, built as part of their lab work in the agriculture center. Job-related experience is one of the hallmarks of an education at VTC.<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Choosing a college or university to attend is one of the most critical decisions young people make in their lives. The schools they attend and the course of studies they choose can have a huge impact on their future endeavors. Every thing from launching their careers to purchasing a home may be largely based on the schools they choose.

It’s no wonder, then, that parents approach their sons’ and daughters’ final years of high school with a combination of pride and apprehension.

Those first steps the kids take after graduation may loom larger in parents’ minds than any others they have watched their children take before. Families with limited financial resources to pay for a traditional four-year college, and students themselves who know that a four-year institution is not the right choice for them, may be the most anxious of all. If traditional college isn’t the obvious next stage of a young person’s life, what is?

The answer, it turns out, may be closer to home than many parents realize. Whatever the reason a traditional college education may not be in a child’s future, these three local schools are worth getting to know.

River Valley Community College One of seven colleges in the Community College System of New Hampshire, River Valley Community College, in Claremont, has roughly 1,300 students studying in a variety of academic programs, from respiratory therapy to computer technology and much more. In addition, for adult students juggling a full-time job, children and coursework, RVCC offers 100 percent online course options.

Because RVCC is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, credits earned at RVCC are transferable not only to schools in New Hampshire but throughout the country and internationally as well.

According to Valerie Mahar, vice president of student services and community affairs, RVCC had a creative writing student who transferred to Sir Thomas Moore University in Liverpool England. The student was able to take the credits he had earned at RVCC and apply it to his education in England. The breadth and variety of courses offered at RVCC, Mahar said, are what make RVCC a special asset to Upper Valley students. “I would say it’s our uniqueness of programs,” Mahar said. “No other associates degree granting institution in the region offers the plethora of allied health programming, cyber security, advanced machine tool and accounting/business management courses that River Valley offers.” RVCC has something for everyone. For first-time college students unsure of what they want to study, River Valley is a place to start taking classes and to figure out what the best path in higher education may be.

For individuals with degrees looking to change careers, River Valley is an affordable option to learn new skills. And with courses in everything from making chocolate to learning how to use an iPad, River Valley even has classes for people just looking to enrich their lives through education.

Vermont Technical College In a time when the unemployment rate hovers around 8 percent, parents and their teenagers can breathe easier knowing that Philip Conroy, president of Vermont Technical College, said that the average VTC student finds a job within the first six months after graduation.

With campuses in Randolph and Williston, VTC offers degree programs in a variety of areas, including dental hygiene, diversified agriculture, equine studies and engineering. VTC, Conroy said, is a technical college built on preparing students to succeed in their given professions.

“We’re so workforce development oriented,” Conroy said, “students are working hands-on from the very beginning. Engineering students are creating prototypes for different machines, which the students then try to get into the marketplace.” Conroy said that nursing students will actually practice nursing skills on a mechanical patient that mimics human behavior, including talking, bleeding and even dying. VTC also partners with the Vermont Department of Labor, offering a three-year program in which student plumbers and electricians are sent throughout the state to study and to practice in their field.

With students learning in such practical ways, Conroy said, they will be well prepared when they go into internship environments or actual jobs where their skills will truly be tested.

In an attempt to find work for all of their graduates, Conroy said that VTC molds its educational opportunities to meet the needs of the public.

Knowing that the United States faced an aging population of commercial pilots, for example, VTC created the Professional Pilot Technology program, which leads to a bachelor of science degree. Students are placed at the Williston location and fly out of the international airport in Burlington. This new program, Conroy said, has 17 students training and taking classes to become professional, commercial pilots.

Community College of Vermont With 12 locations spread throughout the state, the Community College of Vermont campus in White River Junction is an excellent option for students who may need to balance busy home and work lives with rigorous academic schedules. Although the majority if CCV students (80 percent) work part-time, they are able to move toward their educational goals by attending three-hour classes that meet just once a week.

Due to the longer class periods, CCV students are afforded the opportunity to get involved in case studies and to work as teams to solve various problems and to spend class time engaged in in-depth discussions and hands-on work. A group of students taking a science class, for example, visited Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to meet the people who process waste for the hospital and to experience firsthand how the process works.

Another benefit to attending CCV is found in the faculty members, many of whom teach part-time while working full-time in their chosen professions. Such faculty members, said Kate Hughes, coordinator of academic services at the Upper Valley location of CCV, allow students to thrive on the real-world experience and knowledge that the teachers bring with them to the classroom.

A staff member who also teaches, Hughes said that CCV serves students in every age bracket and in every life situation. She recalled one class in particular that showed the diversity of the CCV student population.

“I once taught a U.S. history class with someone who was 19 and someone who was 72,” Hughes said.

All the same, Hughes said that “traditional” college students, young people ages 18-25, make up the fastest growing group of students at CCV.

The current downturn in the economy and the ever escalating cost of four-year institutions may both play a part in that trend. Students turn to CCV, Hughes said, because the overall value of a CCV education is significant. It’s affordable, Hughes said, without compromising quality.

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No doubt about it: Higher education is a significant decision with price tags that can make parents weak in the knees. But whatever age your child is, whether 3 or 33, there’s no need to despair. The perfect school may not only be out there, it may be closer and more affordable than you think.