CALAIS _ Educators from both Maine and New Brunswick met last week to kick off a unique post-secondary education cross-border partnership that will lead to high-quality learning opportunities for students on both sides of the international border.
The Cross border Higher Education Partnership, known locally as CHEP, will offer first-class learning opportunities, including cross-institutional credit recognition, and collaborative college life experiences for students. Washington County Community College, the New Brunswick Community College in St. Andrews and St. Stephen’s University are the founding partners. The University of Maine at Machias joined the partnership last summer.
CHEP was formally created in 2009 to increase the student retention rate of high school graduates and to promote the cross-border region as a post-secondary educational destination for Americans, Canadian and international students.
WCCC President William Cassidy, UMM President Cynthia Huggins, NBCC President and Chief Executive Officer Marilyn Luscombe and SSU President Robert Cheatley on Thursday unveiled the new CHEP logo that will be proudly displayed by each institution and also will be added to the respective partner’s website to link to the CHEP program.
CHEP is unique to Maine and New Brunswick because there apparently is no similar type of formalized international educational partnerships along the 49th parallel that forms the border between the United States and Canada.
During the brief ceremony, Allan Gray, NBCC’s department head, introduced the partners and spoke about the rich history that began more than 10 years ago when WCCC and NBCC partnered in one of the first North American Mobility Programs in the area of Adventure Recreation programming. “That successful four-year project saw more than 50 students from Canada, the United States and Mexico engage in reciprocal student mobility exchanges and learning activities,” he said.
Then just a few years ago WCCC and NBCC joined with neighboring St. Stephen’s University and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in support of joint learning activities for its students, joint non-academic events that supported combined extra–curricular activities and specific community-based fund-raising initiatives.
The partnership was further bolstered by a 2007 agreement signed by the then governor of Maine and premier of New Brunswick.
CHEP was born.
The Memorandums of Understanding provided opportunities for students in New Brunswick and Maine to study at cross-border post-secondary education institutions, and paying only the in-state/in-province tuition fees.
Last summer, Gray said, the New Brunswick department of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labor (PETL) issued a Request for Proposals for funding of the CHEP project. “The primary criterion was that the project proposals must identify a sustainable international partnership that would support post-secondary education and training,” he said.
In December 2012, NBCC was awarded $30,000 (Can) in PETL funding and last year a curriculum consultant was hired to review the curriculum data from each of the four CHEP partner institutions. The ultimate goal was to determine a minimum of eight, two per-CHEP partner program pathways that would allow students from partner institutions to continue with their academic careers at another institution and in many cases, in another country.
The partnership would allow students to obtain recognized academic credentials ranging from certificates, diplomas, Associate degrees, Bachelor degrees, and beyond without having to leave a small geographical region.
Addressing the unique relationship that exists between the two countries, Gray drew applause from the group when he recalled some local folklore about the War of 1812, when St. Stephen loaned gun powder to Calais for the city’s 4th of July fireworks celebration. “That is the nature of the collaboration that exists between our borders,” he said. “Canada and the United States share the strongest and most beneficial international relationship in the world.”
The CHEP review and collaborative process is expected to be completed by June and it is anticipated that all program articulation agreements will be in place in time for the beginning of the 2014 academic year.