New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan visited Keene State College on Wednesday, Feb. 24 for the first time since she was elected in November.
Hassan joined faculty, staff and students of KSC for a round table discussion regarding the burden of student debt.
The event began with remarks by KSC Provost William Seigh, followed by Hassan expressing her initial concerns with student debt in the state and the country.
“I really heard throughout my time as governor and saw it first-hand as well, about the impact of student debt on our capacity as a state to grow an economy where we all have opportunity where people can take risks and engage in the professions and the work that they want to and where we can grow an economy where working families have a chance to get ahead and thrive,” Hassan said.
After her initial remarks, Hassan listened as each member of the round table panel went around and spoke of their experience with student debt, some of which totalled above $50,000. Most of the students at the panel work multiple jobs both on and off campus to help pay for school, while also balancing a full course load.
“It’s concerning to me, as it is to all of us on this panel, the amount of the debt that we collectively have…It’s a real concern that after graduation, I may not have a financial basis for myself…” KSC senior and panelist Alex Clark said.
Hassan asked what was currently being done at the college to help students learn to manage their debt.
Also on the panel was KSC Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Steven Goetsch, who said that as of now, the college offers meetings with students to help them plan and figure out what a potential loan payment may be. He also said that the college offers mandated exit counseling. Exit counseling, according to the KSC website is required for students who have received federal and/or institutional loans
Additionally, according to the KSC 2016 Factbook, the college provides over $14 million in institutional merit or need-based scholarships and grants, along with more dollars allocated for student hourly jobs and other types of financial aid.
As a state, New Hampshire allocates the least amount of money in the country to public education, which leaves more of the financial burden on colleges and, therefore, students.
Hassan, who froze tuition during her first two years as governor and lowered tuition at the community college level, spoke of what needs to be done in the future to improve student debt.
Possible suggestions for improvements of the student debt problem proposed by Hassan, panelists and audience members were the expansion of the Pell Grant Program, lowering interest rates broadening of loan-forgiveness programs, lowering the cost of graduate school and more.
Hassan said that she will continue to work to keep the cost of higher education as low as she can, and said she wants citizens to keep educating their elected officials on the issue of student debt.
Jacob Barrett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Corrections made 3/07/17 – Paragraph 9: changed “$1.4 million” to “$14 million”*