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Thursday, August 16, 2012

State must help bring down student costs of higher education, experts say

NASHUA- Legislators and education officials need to work together to fund higher education in New Hampshire and lower student costs if the state is to keep its skilled workforce, experts agreed Thursday night.

While the state ranks ninth in the nation for the number of residents who hold bachelor's degrees, 80 percent of those individuals did not grow up in New Hampshire and did not go to school in the state, said New Hampshire College and University Council President Tom Horgan. ...

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NASHUA- Legislators and education officials need to work together to fund higher education in New Hampshire and lower student costs if the state is to keep its skilled workforce, experts agreed Thursday night.

While the state ranks ninth in the nation for the number of residents who hold bachelor's degrees, 80 percent of those individuals did not grow up in New Hampshire and did not go to school in the state, said New Hampshire College and University Council President Tom Horgan.

Horgan was one of five panelists at a community forum hosted by The Telegraph Thursday night. The event is part of a six-day series on the rising costs of higher education in the state, "Degrees of Debt."

With New Hampshire's college graduates facing some of the highest debt loads in the nation, experts on the panel debated whether college is still a worthy investment and why educators and students even have to ask that question.

USNH Chancellor Edward MacKay said that while the university system has done its best to keep costs low for students, a lack of funding from the state is a key reason behind the rising costs of a college education.

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 to 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.

Granite State Management Resources Board Member Jerry Little reminded attendees, however, that student debt and rising higher education costs are not solely a New Hampshire problem. Tuition has been rising throughout the country at rates higher than inflation, he said, and institutions need to explain the increases.

"We need to see administrators at colleges and universities stepping up and saying we have a problem here," he said. "They need to start to working as an industry to try to bring the costs down."