Crushed under student debt
Published: Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Updated: Friday, December 6, 2013 00:12
Debt: A word becoming synonymous with descriptions of students attending college in the state of New Hampshire.
Recently, several studies revealed the Granite State to be the accumulator of the most student debt in the country.
According to an October article in USA Today, students in debt make up three quarters of college graduates in New Hampshire.
“The problem is that these days, college is far from cheap,” the article said.
This is true. The average student graduating from a New Hampshire state university is walking the stage with more than $32,000 tied to the banks and government.
“[You] just don’t see support for higher education,” Principal of PolEcon, a self-run research blog, Brian Gottlob said. “If you’re higher education, you don’t want to be thought of as less essential.”
Tuition alone for the 2013-2014 academic year at the University of New Hampshire is $13,670 and $26, 390 for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively.
On top of that is the more than $1,400 in “student fees” for various anomalies such as athletic, transportation and “Memorial Union Building” fees.
Students in the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, Engineering and Computer Science majors in the College of Engineering and Physical Science, or music majors in the College of Liberal Arts can tack on up to $482 in additional fees per semester.
In 2011, UNH hiked its tuition 8.7 percent; a January 30, 2012 article in The New Hampshire reported that the school had increased its tuition for the 23rd straight year.
But it’s not all bad, Keene State College senior and student trustee to the USNH Board of Trustees Allie Bedell said. USNH, the University System of New Hampshire, is the higher education system comprised of four different institutions: Plymouth State University, Granite State College, Keene State College and the University of New Hampshire. According to the USNH website, together the four universities award more than half of the diplomas in the state each year.
“The university agreed to freeze tuition for the next biennium,” she said, “which is a really big step.”
Over the summer, the Board of Trustees voted to make a two-year freeze on in-state tuition. This freeze would mark the first action of its kind in 25 years. While this helps students attending college in state, out-of-state students are still in the line of fire.
The breakdown of tuition shows that there is not one single factor that leads to the high cost of college.
A headline for a Oct. 2012 article in The Nashua Telegraph stated that, “At $32,440, New Hampshire once again tops in nation in average student debt.” The article said that student “cost of attendance rose 147 percent for in-state students and 113 percent for out-of-states students.”
“Two years ago [there was] a 45 percent cut in student appropriations,” Bedell said. “Unfortunately, those revenue streams have to come from somewhere.”
But lack of funding is not the only problem contributing to college expenses.
“I do think … [cost is] so high here because there tends to be a lot of competition,” Gottlob said. “That’s very different than a lot of the country.”
New England contains some of the nation’s most selective universities in the nation, such as Ivy League colleges.
This comes back to the problem of public versus private funding. If a university (or college) is private, funding and student debt seems to be less of a problem.
“But [there are] almost no programs in the state,” Gottlob said. “There is a very low level of state support.”
Bedell begs to differ. She believes that students studying through USNH are receiving an education at a comparable bargain.
“It is a highly competitive education that costs less than competitors,” she said. “It’s a relatively less expensive though [the] same education.”
“That’s one of the reasons that New Hampshire is higher. We don’t get a lot of money from the state,” he said.
But according to Bedell, with USNH, this is not the case.
“We are serious about keeping cost low,” she said.
For most, if not all students, this is good news.
Already weighed down with loans, there are students who work multiple jobs to put themselves through school, like junior Ben Randall. He majors in economics, is a brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon and has a passion for hockey.
Randall is also one of the many UNH students currently trying not to think about how to pay off the loans he is accumulating while attending school in Wildcat Country. He transferred here from Minnesota with the mindset that he might as well make the best of college.
“I figured I wanted to get as much as I could out of the college experience,” he said.
But what does moving to a state with a reputation for the least affordable colleges mean when it comes to student debt?
It means working 20 to 25 hours a week at Best Buy Mobile to make rent and gas money. “I try to live off of … $50 a week,” he said.