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  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    Debby Scire, from Campus Compact, listens at a forum put together by The Telegraph about the cost of higher education at Nashua Community College on Thursday, August 16, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    Dorothy Oden, a teacher from Amherst Street Elementary, listens at a forum put together by The Telegraph about the cost of higher education at Nashua Community College on Thursday, August 16, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    Chancellor of the University of New Hampshire Ed MacKay speaks at a forum put together by The Telegraph about the cost of higher education at Nashua Community College on Thursday, August 16, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    Mike Fillipon speaks at a forum put together by The Telegraph about the cost of higher education at Nashua Community College on Thursday, August 16, 2012. Fillipon graduated UNH with over $30,000 in debt.
  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    Glen Kerkian, of Manchester Community College, speaks at a forum put together by The Telegraph about the cost of higher education at Nashua Community College on Thursday, August 16, 2012.
Friday, August 17, 2012

Degrees of debt: Experts say collaboration needed to keep NH college costs down

NASHUA – As a social worker at Fairgrounds Middle School, Scott Jaquith has seen firsthand how the rising costs of higher education can discourage young students.

Many of his students are still learning English, or come from low income families, and the costs are daunting.

“A lot of them feel like college isn’t for them, or that it’s out of reach,” he said.

As a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Jaquith said it’s hard for him to hear these concerns.

Jaquith was one of several attendees at a community forum hosted by The Telegraph at Nashua Community College Thursday night. The forum was part of “Degrees of Debt,” a six-part series on the rising costs of higher education in New Hampshire.

Panelists at the forum expressed similar concerns as Jaquith, and said that better collaboration – among education leaders, state legislators, school districts, parents and students – is key to keeping higher education affordable and sustainable.

During the past decade at UNH, the cost of attendance rose 147 percent for in-state students and 113 percent for out-of-state students. At Plymouth State University and Keene State College, the 15-year increases were more than 130 percent for in-state students and more than 100 percent for out-of-staters.

This fall, the “sticker price” at UNH is $26,186 for in-state students and $38,646 for out-of-staters, the highest it’s ever been. Meanwhile, New Hampshire earns the distinction of having the state school with highest four-year tuition for in-state residents in the nation.

USNH Chancellor Edward MacKay said that better collaboration between state legislators and education officials is an important part of bringing these costs down.

The state Legislature cut its funding to USNH by nearly half in its last budget. Because of these and past cuts, MacKay said, the university system has had to charge both in and out of state students more to attend the state’s institutions.

Out-of-state students are overcharged, he said, to help subsidize the cost of in-state tuition. That, he said, is not a sustainable funding model.

“We have to ensure that students can graduate and get through in a timely manner,” he said. “We’re committed to putting together a package that enables New Hampshire students to attend college, but it’s a struggle.”

MacKay said he and other USNH officials will be going before the Legislature in September to discuss the budget issues. The university system is prepared to freeze tuition for two years if state funding is restored, he said.

“I hope we can have that conversation with elected officials and get beyond the ‘Can’t you reduce costs more?,’ and say what is our common vision for the future,” he said.

New Hampshire College and University Council President Tom Horgan said that while he believes legislators were not happy with the cuts they had to make, he hopes they consider restoring funding in the future.

“We will have to work harder and better and smarter at lowering costs,” he said. “But the state and the businesses in the state who hire our students have to be a partner.”

Better collaboration is also needed among the state’s higher education institutions, panelists agreed, to share resources and keep costs down.

Students need more affordable pathways to a degree, said Nashua Community College President Lucille Jordan. The community college has been working to partner with other colleges in the state, most recently, Granite State College, to help students save money and earn a quality education.

The same collaboration needs to occur between the state’s university and colleges and the state’s elementary, middle and high schools.

The more students are prepared for college and the workforce, MacKay said, the more likely they will be to earn scholarships and internships that will help fund their education.

Granite State Management Resources Board Member Jerry Little said high schools students often do not get enough education on the price of college and do not fully understand the debt load they are taking on when they accept student loans.

Without more collaboration between parents and students, to really know how much a family can spend on college, graduates will continue to face issues with debt in the state.

Recent UNH graduate and panelist Mike Fillipon agreed. He said he only knew what his mother taught him about funding his education, and that it was a shock to graduate and realize he’d be dishing out hundreds every month to pay off his $30,000 in loans.

“Teens could definitely use more counseling, or more talking about what getting yourself into after you’re done,” he said.

Jaquith said that better education on how to pay for college and alternative, more affordable degree options would help a lot of his students. Some of his students work during high school and support their families, he said, and worry that going to school would leave their families homeless.

Better supports for these students, he said, would make college more attainable.

Going forward, MacKay said the success of the university system depends on all kinds of collaboration. Better collaboration will lead to lower costs, and, hopefully, restored state funding.

Higher education is crucial to the success of individuals and the future of the state’s workforce, Horgan said, and New Hampshire must ensure it keeps its programs accessible.

Horgan said he’s seen the struggles graduates in the state face finding jobs and paying for cars, homes and loans, but that college, in the end, is worth the investment.

“You’re going to figure out what to do,” he said to graduates. “It’s going to take a while, but once you get that first job, you’re going to be set. And your college education is going to pay off for you then and it’s going to pay off for the rest of your life.”

Danielle Curtis can be reached at dcurtis@nashuatelegraph.com or 594-6557. Also, follow Curtis on Twitter (@Telegraph_DC).