Two foundations are offering this year’s New Hampshire high school graduates a free class at any one of the state’s seven community colleges this coming fall.

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the Foundation for New Hampshire Community Colleges together committed more than $1 million toward tuition and fees.

The gift will cover any three-credit course — in person, online or hybrid — and all high school seniors who graduated this year are eligible. To participate, students need to reach out to the admissions office of a local community college, and an academic counselor will help them to enroll.

The foundations’ leaders emphasized the obstacles high school seniors faced in the lead-up to graduation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down schools and shifted classes online.

“New Hampshire’s graduating seniors should be incredibly proud, and you should know that New Hampshire is proud of you,” said Richard Ober, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, in a release. “You have persevered to finish your high school careers under extraordinarily challenging circumstances.”

Michael Turmelle, director of education and career initiatives at the charitable foundation, called the pandemic an “unprecedented disruption.”

“They have been separated from all of the usual in-school experiences and services that graduating seniors can usually count on,” he said in a statement. “We wanted to create an easy way for students to take this important step toward their future success.”

The free courses may be a gift to the state’s community colleges, as well. In March, state legislators released details for a proposed merger between the Community College System of New Hampshire and the University System of New Hampshire as the state prepares for a demographic cliff, an impending decrease in the number of white, traditional-age students, who are the most likely to be able to afford the highest rates for college. Both systems’ enrollments declined this fall compared to last year.

“I hope New Hampshire students take advantage of this wonderful opportunity not only to gain a free course but also put themselves on a path to college success at institutions that are ready and eager to help them take that next step,” said Susan Huard, interim chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, in a statement.

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