N.H. youth fighting for college affordability

Courtesy photo Young residents are advocating for more help from the state in addressing the student loan debt crisis in New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire Youth Table, which is made up of members from the New Hampshire Young Democrats, the New Hampshire Youth Movement and NextGen New Hampshire is working on a new initiative that fights to bring down student loan debt in New Hampshire.

Seventy-four percent of students graduating from a college in New Hampshire this year are likely to be burdened with some level of debt, the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success said recently, with average debt sitting at $34,415.

The New Hampshire Youth Table is working to organize college students across the state to help raise the voices of students who will be taking on debt in the years to come.

In addition, they will be attending House budget hearings, testifying at the statehouse, working on petitions and taking other action through this year’s budget process, in an attempt to shed light on the student debt crisis. The New Hampshire Youth Table is fighting for adequate funding of the state’s University and Community College Systems.

In a press release sent out by New Hampshire Young Democrats, NextGen NH State Director Brian Rogers noted, “Young people in New Hampshire should not have to decide between an

education and a lifelong obligation to crippling debt. We’re working with students around the state to make sure that young voices that are often left out of this process are an integral part for elected officials crafting our state budget.”

“Through my college search, I have found a couple of schools that fit my criteria, and sadly none of these options are in New Hampshire,” said Milford High School junior Brennan Spencer. “The main reason is that the cost of quality education in New Hampshire is too high.”

Many in the state, including some Nashua representatives, are concerned that Gov. Chris Sununu’s proposed budget flat-funds education.

“The answer to the high burdens of college debt is not to give free diplomas to everyone, it is to create a system that incentivizes students to stay and work in our great state through a student debt assistance program,” Sununu said in his 2019 budget address.

The governor said in the coming year there will be a new $32 million student loan assistance program available to all students and at no additional cost to the taxpayers.

At a press conference by local Democrat leaders in front of Mount Pleasant Elementary last week, a Sununu spokesman, Benjamin Vihstadt, stated that the governor is open to adjusting education funding if the Legislature is able to do so in a fiscally responsible way that does not raise taxes.

Vihstadt also spoke of the nearly $64 million the budget sends back to “property poor” cities and towns for school building aid.

“We have made hard choices that put Granite Staters first and prioritizes hard work and investment,” Sununu added in his budget address.

New Hampshire Young Democrats State Organizing Director Shayne Weldon argued that New Hampshire leaders need to make college affordability a priority.

“We’ve been organizing aggressively across the state this year to make sure Gov. Sununu, and all our elected officials, know that young people will no longer tolerate a lack of action from their government-making it hard for them to pursue college degrees and start their careers,” Weldon said.