Editorial: The burden of higher education
More households owe student loan debt than ever before
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02
It seems that a new statistic is released every week to highlight the increasing costs of a college education. The latest is from the Pew Research Center, and it is not encouraging.
According to Pew, nearly one in five (19 percent) American households owed student loan debt in 2010. That is the highest it’s ever been and more than double the nine percent of households that owed student loan debt in 1989.
The recession, of course, has contributed heavily to increasing student debt. About 15 percent of households owed student debt in 2007, before the economy bottomed out in 2009.
But the numbers aren’t encouraging, especially here in New Hampshire, where students graduate with the highest debt in the entire nation. Approximately 74 percent of New Hampshire college students graduate with student loan debt.
New Hampshire is also a state where the majority of lawmakers have cast the university system aside as a cash cow, slashing its budget and leaving students with even less options for financial aid.
New Hampshire is not the only state in the nation to cut education significantly in recent years. The National Science Board recently released a report detailing how funding has been cut at nearly every one of the 101 major public research universities in America. UNH is the only in New Hampshire.
Between 1992 and 2001, the majority of states invested more in their major public research universities, with per student funding rising in every state except for Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Texas.
But 2002-2010 was a much different story. During that time period, per student funding dropped in 43 states. New Hampshire’s per student state funding, $4,309, was the fourth lowest in the nation in 2010, ahead of only Colorado ($3,417), Rhode Island ($3,692) and Vermont ($3,482).
How many more statistics need to be released before legislators realize that most students have been crippled financially? Perhaps they are blind to the numbers; perhaps they don’t care.
But what they should care about is an educated workforce helping to lead the resurgence of the American economy, a workforce that is not hindered by outrageous student loan payments well into their thirties and even forties.
Stalling that resurgence is increasing college costs forcing cash-strapped families to forego higher education, even at a public university where the price of education should be affordable for all.
When lawmakers finally start taking these statistics seriously, perhaps they will consider restoring funding to higher education. Until then, these dubious numbers will continue to make headlines.