New Hampshire has emerged as a leader in international education. Recognizing the value in offering the opportunity for an American-style higher education in other parts of the world, the New Hampshire Legislature has acted favorably on legislation that my colleagues and I have sponsored to help create universities in Greece, Italy and Jordan.
Degree-granting authority for the three universities was established through New Hampshire law. They are monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure they live up to the standards set by the state. They must produce reports to the state Higher Education Commission and have site visits by a group set up by the commission.
New Hampshire institutions have been involved in international education for a long time. In the past, both Franklin Pierce and New England College offered a semester or a year abroad. In the case of New England College, a campus was established at Arundel, England, but has since closed. But this is the first time that international institutions based in foreign countries have sought degree-granting authority in New Hampshire for campuses abroad. Next, they will seek accreditations from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
The international collaborations will expand opportunities for Granite State students and faculty to go abroad and for their foreign counterparts to travel to New Hampshire.
The overseas programs will be taught by English-speaking faculty, some from the U.S. These are homegrown instructors who are trained in American-style education but remain local.
The Hellenic American University was established in 2004 by an act of the New Hampshire Legislature and is located in Athens, Greece. The university began with a small focus on business administration, but in the ensuing years has grown to offer a variety of liberal arts programs and, in 2008 launched its first doctoral program.
St. John International University is a for-profit American University located in Torino, Italy. It was founded in 2007 and incorporated in 2008 by the state of New Hampshire through legislation providing degree-granting authority. It has a strong emphasis on the environment and promoting a culture of sustainability. St. John is currently authorized to grant five different bachelor’s degrees and three different master’s degrees. The degree areas include environmental studies, art history, film study, business administration and environmental architecture.
In addition to the degree-granting authorization bestowed upon St. John by the state of New Hampshire, the university has taken it upon itself to seek regional U.S. accreditation for all its degree programs. Regional accreditation is a must for all U.S. chartered schools in the world. It is a key to their viability.
I recently traveled to Jordan to attend the grand opening of the American University of Madaba (AUM). The event was attended by the King of Jordan. AUM is authorized by New Hampshire to offer 18 degree programs in seven disciplines, including: engineering, science, health sciences, art and design, business and finance, information technology and languages and communications.
To be sure, each overseas venture offers challenges. AUM has 1,000 students, most from Jordan, most Muslim, both men and women. There is a fear of spillover from Syria’s civil war. In Greece, the housing situation is problematic and the specter of austerity and backlash are real. The St. John campus in Turino, is located in a renovated castle, however recent financial problems have gathered headlines. At this time, these problems have been taken care of and the college is in a positive position. There is no question that this part of the world is not stable. Hopefully education will produce the impetus for better relations.
All these universities embrace the concept of an American higher education and believe wholeheartedly in the opportunities that a quality education can provide. They strive to give each student the opportunity to reach their highest potential. They adhere to the belief that education can transform lives and society as a whole.
These institutions are funded through private capital and tuition. In the case of the University of Madaba, the Catholic Church, through the Vatican, has helped with capital expenditures. The other two institutions, one non-profit, the other for-profit, are funded through tuition and other sources. SJIU offers a 20% discount on tuition to residents of Italy and New Hampshire, similar to the lower in-state tuition rates you see at public institutions in America. The HAU offers a work-study program to help offset tuition costs for students.
While these countries share many of the challenges that the U.S. faces in terms of covering the cost of tuition and expanding access to higher education, they also have added political and economic problems that exacerbate the challenge. Jordan, for example, has the stress of volatilities in its neighboring nations and throughout the Middle East region, and Greece’s financial troubles as a nation have been widely reported. These institutions have been established to emulate the American style education that is desired throughout the world.
Lou D’Allesandro is a New Hampshire state senator and former chair of NEBHE.