Editorial: Letters for the legislators
Students can have a voice in state funding debate
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 00:02
It is far too easy to fall into the grasp of apathy for many here at the University of New Hampshire. This indifference is often the result of students thinking that they cannot make a difference, so why should they try? On Tuesday and Wednesday, however, every student has the chance to have a positive effect on their future at this university.
The “Dear Concord” letter campaign, starting on Tuesday from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Granite State Room, is calling on students to write to their state legislators and urge them to support funding for the University System of New Hampshire. Another session will be held on Wednesday from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Strafford Room. Volunteers with UNH Works will help students figure out who they should be writing to and will even help with the drafting of the letters.
Why should students take a part in this campaign? How much difference can a letter really make? To start, it’s not often that legislators receive correspondence from the younger generations. They expect this lack of interest in government affairs out of many young adults. A flurry of letters from UNH students would certainly be unexpected for many New Hampshire state legislators. Perhaps it could prove to be a wake up call.
After Gov. Maggie Hassan proposed restoring 90 percent of the 2011 budget cuts to USNH in her budget address, it is up to the House of Representatives and the Senate to come to an agreement on the next two-year budget cycle by the end of June. Students cannot allow them to come to that decision without including their voices in the discussion.
What should students write about? They could tell their own stories, of their struggle to pay for college and the student loan debt that is crushing many recent graduates of this university. They could tell legislators why UNH is a worthwhile institution that needs proper state funding. The facts supporting this claim are abundant. Consider the recent “College Scorecard,” released by the White House after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address called for colleges to keep costs down in order to receive federal aid. UNH’s graduation rate of 76.5 percent was in the highest percentile. Only 2.5 percent of UNH graduates defaulted on their federal loans within three years of entering repayment, well below the national average of 13.5 percent.
But the average cost of attendance after factoring in grants and scholarships for in-state students was over $18,000, in the medium percentile nationally. The typical amount borrowed by a UNH student, meanwhile, was in the highest percentile. Families typically borrow over $23,000 in federal loans to send a student to UNH. That is unacceptable for a state university that is supposed to remain affordable for all New Hampshire residents who are accepted into the school.
This situation can be alleviated if state funding to the university is brought back to its previous levels. In-state tuition will freeze for the next two years at all New Hampshire four-year state colleges. Students can play a role in making this happen by writing to lawmakers on Tuesday and Wednesday, or anytime over the next few months for that matter. Election Day proved to be a record turnout for student voting here in Durham. Officials did not expect that college kids would care that much about current events. Students can surprise legislators once again by addressing an issue that will affect them directly, for years to come.