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  • Staff photo by William Wrobel


    Parents move their children into Guild Hall with the help of Rivier College residential life workers Sunday, September 2, 2012. Guild Hall houses freshman students at Rivier University and many parents dropped off students for the first time ever.
  • Staff photo by William Wrobel


    Rivier University Residential Life workers help freshman students move into on-campus housing Sunday, September 2, 2012.
  • Staff photo by William Wrobel


    Joseph Bobak of Hollis brings items into Guild Hall for his sister on moving day at Rivier University Sunday, September 2, 2012 as Residential Life Staff cheer him on.
  • Staff photo by William Wrobel


    Shanai, 7, catches a ride into Guild Hall on a pile of her sister's belongings during Rivier University's move-in day Sunday, September 2, 2012.
  • Staff photo by William Wrobel


    Parents move their children into Guild Hall Sunday, September 2, 2012. Guild Hall houses freshman students at Rivier University.
  • Staff photo by William Wrobel


    Parents move their children into Guild Hall Sunday, September 2, 2012. Guild Hall houses freshman students at Rivier University.
  • Staff photo by William Wrobel


    Parents move their children into Guild Hall with the help of Rivier College residential life workers Sunday, September 2, 2012. Guild Hall houses freshman students at Rivier University and many parents dropped off students for the first time ever.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012

‘Move-in Day’ jump starts the year at Nashua’s Rivier University

NASHUA – Not unlike a business partnership, Marty Nahigian and his son, Al, each have their assignments for the next four years: Dad worries about the bills, while son’s responsibility is to get good grades.

“And when he gets a good job, he can help me out,” Marty Nahigian added.

The two, along with wife and mom Kathy, joined scores of other freshmen and families from around New England on Sunday in awakening Nashua’s Rivier University campus for the 2012-13 school year. The busiest spot was Guild Hall, where dozens of blue-shirted “Welcome Week Team” members greeted the fledgling frosh, signed them in, helped load their belongings into carts and show them to their quarters.

As is the case throughout New Hampshire, and across the nation, this year, Rivier’s so-called “Move-In Day” summoned dual anxieties among many families. While the new freshmen endured the expected first-time-away-from-home jitters and lesser worries over squeezing all their cargo into comparatively tiny dorm rooms, many parents have been keeping a wary eye on an inescapable reality of 21st-century higher education: Skyrocketing cost.

“You just have to deal with it,” Nahigian said. “We got a little financial help, he received some money for academics,” he said, referring to higher-than-average grades and strong final GPA his son Al earned at Saugus (Mass.) High School. “He was recruited for the baseball program, but there are no athletic scholarships in Division III schools.”

When Al Nahigian and his fellow frosh finish their first year at Rivier, the Catholic school will be in its 80th year and completing its first as a university. The designation became official July 1. While its campus has grown exponentially over those eight decades, Rivier’s size still draws students seeking a smaller, cozier campus.

One is Alex Riccio, whose father, Anthony, said she “fell in love” with Rivier when the family visited earlier this year. “She didn’t want (to go to) a really big college,” Riccio, of West Springfield, Mass., said during a moving break. “The size is just right for her.” Alex Riccio is entering Rivier’s Division of Nursing, its most populous program.

Granite Staters need not go far to feel the sting of sharply rising post-secondary education costs. While median income for New Hampshire families is up 23 percent in 20 years, according to a study reported in The Telegraph’s recent series, Degrees of Debt, the cost for in-state students at University of New Hampshire has more than tripled in that time.

Further, in 2010, college graduates in New Hampshire carried the heaviest debt load in the country, averaging $31,048 in student debt upon graduation, according to a recent study by The Project on Student Debt.

At Rivier, the average debt among 2010 grads was about $36,500, according to the study, which also reported that statewide, roughly three-quarters of students leave school with at least some debt.

About 90 minutes into Move-In Day, meanwhile, senior Chloe Landon took a brief water break from her hectic assignment on the Welcome Week Team.

“It seems like yesterday, I was doing exactly what they’re all doing,” Landon said, watching freshmen scurry about as their parents backed in cars loaded with supplies. “I know what they’re going through, and having been there, I can help them out.”

Not far away, Eric Blackburn, Rivier’s student activities and orientation coordinator, surveyed the operation.

“Looks like the first wave is just about over,” he said. “The second one will be coming soon.” People in Blackburn’s position know the pattern: “There are the super-organized parents who have everything packed and ready to go the night before and those who wait until morning to finish up,” he said, explaining the dynamics that create the two waves of arrivals.

As chock full as the incoming carts of desk supplies, blankets, frilly pillows, curtains and favorite gadgets were, they were eclipsed by the giant mound of discarded boxes that Welcome Week Team members hauled out by the dozens.

As soon as a large truck disposed of a pile, another grew in its place. Cartons that held Keurig coffeemakers and mid-size fans appeared to be the most common, with those for desk lamps and hair style wands next in line.

Nearby, large T.J. Maxx bags swollen with clothing, linens, blankets and other goods nearly spilled from their car as Mark and Janine Triller raised the hatchback door. In seconds, a posse of eager Welcome Week volunteers was on the scene transferring Rachel Triller’s possessions to a cart for the elevator ride to her Guild Hall room.

A generation ago, it was Janine Triller who was the new Rivier student, a computer science major at a time the Internet was still a novel concept.

Rachel, a high school basketball star who’s considering trying out for the Raiders, is majoring in business management, her mom said. And like Alex Riccio, Rachel, whose two older brothers went to West Point and Clemson, found Rivier just the right size.

“She wanted a smaller school,” Janine Triller said, adding that costs also figured into the equation, as did her own experience at Rivier and the fact that Rachel has a great-aunt who lives just blocks from the campus.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).