Christopher Watts has his hands full. He works full time, and he’s a full-time student at UNH. There’s a lot on his plate, but you won’t hear him complain. In fact, he says these days he’s more optimistic than usual.
Watts is pursuing a degree in American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting on the Manchester campus. He was one of about 400 freshmen who entered UNH this fall under the new Granite Guarantee financial aid program that helps eligible New Hampshire residents attend UNH tuition-free.
A Meredith native who now lives in Concord, Watts wasn’t aware of the program when he applied to UNH. It was after “a month of frantic searching for scholarships,” that he found out he’d been accepted and had received the Granite Guarantee.
“It was a huge weight off my shoulders. When I realized I wasn’t going to have tuition, it completely changed my outlook and really filled me with a lot more hope than I had previously,” Watts says. “It’s definitely given me the way to a better life and to help others have a better life as well.”
Down the road, he’d like to teach children who are deaf how to sign, so he’s also pursuing the accelerated master’s program in education.
Since he started the program in August, Watts says, “I’ve become obsessed with it. ASL has taken over my life. I sign at home. I’m constantly watching ASL videos. My roommate is learning as well.”
Watts says a mentor at his employer, Concord Hospital, “lit the fire” and showed him the need for ASL interpreters in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of interpreters and translators will grow 17 percent between now and 2026. That’s much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.
With such job prospects and the knowledge he will graduate with far less student debt than he anticipated thanks to the Granite Guarantee, it’s easy to understand why his hopes are soaring.
Thinking of the donors whose gifts to the university made the Granite Guarantee possible, Watts says, “I couldn’t thank them enough. It’s really a life-changer, and I’m incredibly grateful.”
Of UNH, he says, “It’s been absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t ask for a better school.”
To qualify for the Granite Guarantee, New Hampshire residents must attend UNH full time and be eligible for federal Pell grants. The tuition assistance extends through all four years, provided criteria are still met. More information on the Granite Guarantee