NH student debt average highest in nation and growing

By Connor Clerkin
On December 5, 2011


New Hampshire reached the number one spot in average student debt this year, according to the Project on Student Debt. While tuition costs and debt amounts have been growing fairly consistently, this is the first year that New Hampshire has become number one. UNH hasn't been the only school struggling with these recent cuts; community colleges and other state universities have felt the impact as well.

National debt for students falls at $25,250, while in New Hampshire it is $31,048. This may continue to be a large concern in the state of New Hampshire, as the state legislature made a 48 percent cut to the university system last summer while also completely cutting state scholarships. 

This cut and other budget cuts like it have not only had an impact on UNH, which has an average debt rate of $32,323, but also on the other state universities and the community college system. Will Arvelo, the president of the nearby Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, N.H., said that students have been taking on larger loans in the past year, while also registering to take fewer credits. 

In the past, student tuition was paid by a combination of Pell Grants, unique scholarships for specific areas of study, state scholarships, and loans. But with the elimination of the state scholarships and the increases in costs due to cuts, students are being forced to take on more loans in order to bridge that gap. 

Tuition at Great Bay currently sits just above $6,000 annually. Arvelo said that the tuition is not the main problem for students, with associated costs such as transportation and living expenses causing students more concern. While more students are signing up for classes, they are taking fewer credits, and therefore the revenue of the college is going down. 

Normally this would cause a tuition increase, but Arvelo said that tuition is essentially as high as the school could stand to make it. Because of this, the college has been forced to offer fewer sections of various courses, as well as increase the number of courses that each faculty member has to teach. This in turn puts stress on the faculty, and so the students suffer even more. 

Arvelo is concerned about the effect these cuts will have on the state's future. 

"The state will suffer. If you don't have an educated workforce, the companies don't come here. They go somewhere else because that's where the educated workers are," he said.

Nor does Arvelo believe that the emphasis on college will decrease. He said, "Some companies will continue to only higher those with college educations. If you don't support [the students] you're going to be at a disadvantage both locally and nationally."

Though percentage-wise the community college system did not take as big of a hit as UNH and the other state universities, more of its funding comes directly from the state. Arvelo said that not many students have made themselves involved in any plan to attempt to reverse this trend. 

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