Nashua Community College

Administration October 2023 PREMIUM

On the Path to Becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution by Eliminating Equity Gaps 

In New Hampshire’s Gate City on the state’s southern border, Nashua Community College has been working diligently to serve the changing demographics of its community – particularly the largest minority population comprising Hispanic and Latino residents. 

Nashua Community College (NCC) has a strong network of community and industry partners, which keeps the college responsive to what students need to be successful in class and after graduation. While these changes are reflected in many policy choices over recent years, the most comprehensive example is the institution’s Strategic Plan, as laid out in NCC's Interim Five-Year Accreditation Report (January 2023): 

“In recognition of the college’s duty to serve all residents in the community and to meet the needs of the significant Hispanic and Latino population in the Nashua area, NCC specifically included items in the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan aimed at increasing the number of NCC Hispanic and Latino students at the institution. These efforts included hiring bilingual personnel in the Admissions, Registrar, and Financial Aid Offices, increased marketing in Hispanic communities, implementing college orientations specific to ESOL students, and expanding partnerships with area organizations, such as the Nashua Adult Learning Center. Evidence indicates these efforts were largely successful, as the percentage of Hispanic/Latino students at NCC has risen sharply in recent years” (see table below). 

Outreach to the Hispanic Community

NCC’s Multicultural Engagement Department debuted in 2005, offering English Language Learner (ELL) courses, activities, and events for non-native English speakers. Run by Spanish-speaking staff, the department does significant community outreach like serving on city committees and participating in community events celebrating Hispanic and Latino heritage. Events include the International Café, Around the World Dinner, Latino Family Dinner, and Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrations. 

For the past 15 years, Bilingual (Spanish/English) Work Study students have been a part of the department’s team, where they use their language skills to create a welcoming environment for newcomers and immigrants while honing their career and soft skills.

The team also hosts intercambios with Spanish language learners from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and NCC students and had two bilingual interns for the UNH/CCSNH Humanities Collaborative Grant. 

Recently, NCC partnered with the education firm EAB in the “Moon Shot for Equity” initiative. This fall marks the beginning of a 5-year journey in which the college will endeavor to remove barriers impacting student success, and work toward eliminating equity gaps on campus. Currently, EAB is performing an institutional diagnostic evaluation by collecting data on NCC’s student success rates and the institution’s internal processes. EAB will then recommend “best practices” to reduce and eventually eliminate equity gaps. 

Community Partnerships 

Partnerships with community organizations help underserved and English Language Learners access college. Partners include:

MY TURN: Local agency helping at-risk youth access career and college opportunities.

WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act): Resource for job seekers to connect with career training opportunities. 

Adult Learning Center (ALC): Resource for new arrivals to the U.S., non-native speakers, HiSET and adult learners. 

Early Childhood Education 

The Nashua ALC serves many non-native English-speaking students, including Spanish speakers. NCC participates in the ALC’s ESL Open House with Nashua High School South, which has bilingual presentations and Spanish/English interpreters. NCC is now working toward creating a pipeline from the ALC’s adult education classes to the college’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program.

Additionally, this fall, NCC is delivering an ECE course at a nearby YMCA. Most students are YMCA childcare instructors who never had the opportunity to complete their ECE credential, including a Hispanic student who has been with the YMCA for more than a decade. 

“The students in the ECE class are able to do this together and build their confidence to continue their education,” said Lisa Furman, professor and ECE program coordinator, “It’s like a cohort, a community of learners.”

The YMCA class begins after the YMCA instructors get out of work and offers childcare hosted by the YMCA. The course is one of three needed to complete NCC’s Associate ECE Teacher Certificate. Through this partnership, NCC intends to offer each course required for the certificate. 

With NCC’s community partnerships combined with the college’s outreach to the Hispanic population, 21.5% of ECE seats are currently held by students who identify as Hispanic. That’s compared with the City of Nashua’s 13.2% “Hispanic or Latino” population, according to the most recent Census data. 

Professor Furman said the outreach has made an impact, “I think being in the community helps students understand that we can help with any barriers. Like with students who need to borrow laptops from the college library, we are able to get that to them. Any concerns or apprehensions can be addressed through this type of outreach.”

Continuous Growth 

While progress has been made, the college recognizes the need to close achievement gaps. In fall 2021, the course passing rate at NCC was 86% for White students, 84% for Hispanic students, and 79% for Black students. In spring 2022, NCC saw similar results, as the respective pass rates were 91%, 86%, and 82%. in addition to hiring bilingual staff in the Admissions and Financial Aid Offices, college initiatives geared toward reducing achievement gaps include hiring ESOL trained tutors and offering weekly Spanish classes for employees. 

Further improvements include adding a broader range of literature to the English program, recruiting diverse members for the Human Services Advisory Board, and encouraging assignments celebrating diversity in History and Political Science.  

Though much of this work is in the early stages, preliminary evidence suggests the initiatives may be successful, as fall to spring retention rates for Hispanic and Black students have risen from 68% in the 2020-2021 academic year to 73% in the 2021-2022 academic year. 

The college is confident the combined efforts of institutional and program leadership will advance the ability for NCC to serve a diverse student population and improve the success rates of students from underrepresented populations.

About the author

Dr. Barry Garside is the Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs at Nashua Community College and specializes in matters pertaining to accreditation, strategic planning, and the assessment of student learning. He holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in mathematics and a doctorate in education from Maryville University. 

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