For Immediate Release
November 8, 2013

Contact: Tara Payne
(603) 227-5318
800-525-2577
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Why Is Student Debt So High? Student Loan Agency Hosts Discussion

Concord, NH - Nonprofit college planning and student loan servicing agency, Granite State Management & Resources (GSM&R), recently held a roundtable discussion in Concord, NH about the findings of the student debt study prepared by local researcher Brian Gottlob of PolEcon Research. Why Is Student Debt So High In New Hampshire? (And What Can We Do About It?) explains the factors, forces, and policy decisions that have made New England the most expensive higher education region in the country and specifically addresses why students at New Hampshire-based colleges and universities have historically accrued the highest amount of student loan debt in the nation.

According to GSM&R President & CEO, René Drouin, “Legislators in New Hampshire are offered limited research about the nature of college costs when faced with difficult budget and policy decisions related to higher education. GSM&R hopes to offer facts steeped in credible research specific to New Hampshire.” Gerald Little, chair of the GSM&R student debt committee added, “When President Obama declared that college costs and student debt would be a focus for our national agenda, we wanted to do our part to better understand New Hampshire’s especially high levels of debt.”

Highlights of the report and discussion include:

  • A higher percentage of New Hampshire high school grads attend private (and generally more costly) postsecondary schools.
  • Despite access to modern communications and more affordable travel, over 90% of New Hampshire high school graduates who enroll in college go to colleges in the two highest cost regions – New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.
  • Tuition and fees at New Hampshire colleges are 18% higher than the national average. In-state tuition at NH public colleges, as a percentage of median household income, has risen more than 50% since 2000. The most significant determinants of tuition and fee levels are how much a college spends per student and how dependent a college is on tuition revenue to cover expenditures.
  • Like families nationally, more New Hampshire students are seeking affordable four-year in-state tuition options and enrolling in public colleges. However, the positive impact on the debt of New Hampshire students by using this strategy appears negligible.
  • New Hampshire’s strong middle class means that families have above average income, but receive lower levels of aid to help them manage college costs so families turn to borrowing to meet college costs. The average debt of graduates from NH’s public four-year colleges is higher than is the average of debt of graduates from private colleges nationally, and as high as the debt of private college graduates in New Hampshire
  • Public policy decisions negatively impact the debt burden for low-income New Hampshire students. The average need-based grant at public colleges in New Hampshire is the lowest in the nation.
  • Saving for college has declined, especially among the families with children who are most likely to attend college. In 1995, 33.2% of parents with postsecondary education saved for college. Fifteen years later, only 16.1% indicated saving for education expenses.
  • Regional competition for students is significantly related to tuition levels. Competition among colleges in New England raises tuition and fee charges relative to the U.S. average by an estimated 14 percent at private colleges and by 10 percent at public colleges.

According to Gottlob, “There are many factors that contribute to New Hampshire’s high student debt levels, but perhaps the most compelling is that the primary strategy for New Hampshire families to reduce costs - attending a four-year, in-state campus - is not working.” Gottlob also described his own hope that colleges will be seen as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. “New England and New Hampshire face demographic challenges and rely upon the importation of young talent via its colleges. As the region with the highest college costs, New England must embrace a new, more affordable higher education paradigm to continue to thrive.”

Over thirty college administrators, legislators, financial aid counselors and higher education advocates participated in the roundtable discussion about the implications of the study and ideas for reaching mutual goals of 1) increasing postsecondary school degree attainment and 2) preparing students for the job market with a reasonable and responsible amount of student loan debt that more closely mirrors the national average. GSM&R welcomes the public to download the report and provide feedback at www.NHStudentDebtStudy.com.

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Granite State Management & Resources (GSM&R), one of the nonprofit NHHEAF Network Organizations, was established in 1986 to assume administration and loan servicing of federal and private student loan programs. GSM&R contracts with NH Higher Education Assistance Foundation (NHHEAF) and New Hampshire Higher Education Loan Corporation (NHHELCO) to provide financial management, data processing and personnel/facilities administration. Most recently, GSM&R became a federal not-for-profit contractor for the U.S. Department of Education to service the Federal Direct Student Loan Program. Its nationally recognized loan servicing expertise is a source of pride.