Average increases by 20 percent in two years

Dylan Morrill

Equinox Staff


A 2011 study by The Project on Student Debt found that New Hampshire college students in the class of 2010 graduated with the highest average amount of student loan debt in the country: $31,048.

New Hampshire students in the class of 2008 graduated with only $25,785 in student loan debt, a 20 percent increase in two years.

The national average for the class of 2010 was projected at $25,250, and second place belonged to Maine with $29,983. Unfortunately, the solution to higher education’s financial problems is still up for debate. Until then, millions of young Americans will be forced to pay off hefty student loans in their first decade of professional life.

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The cost of tuition and fees has more than doubled from 2000 to 2010, outpacing inflation by a large margin, according to a July 2011 report by Moody’s Analytics.

Consequently, the amount of federal student loans being used to pay for college has gone up over 30 percent since 2000, from $34 billion to $103 billion, according to College Board.

Expectedly, outstanding student loan debt has gone up $300 billion, from $450 billion to $750 billion from 2000-2010, according to the Moody’s Analytics report, creating what many are calling the next big financial bubble.

It takes a typical American college graduate 11 years to pay off his/her scholastic debt and compensate for being out of the workforce for four years according to College Board.

Exacerbating the progressively increasing cost of a college education is a 48 percent cut in state funding from the New Hampshire government.

The cut reduces the amount of money given to Keene State from the State of New Hampshire from $13.3 million to $6.9 million, a $6.4 million dollar decrease. The loss has caused the college to raise tuition $1,208 for in-state students and $648 for out of state students.

Expected revenue gains from tuition total about $3 million; filling in less than half of the $6.4 million hole.

The rest of the money will come from budget reductions ($2.5 million) and reduced investments in program improvement ($900,000).

In a recent address to the college about the budget cut, President Helen Giles-Gee emphasized the importance of change. The second paragraph reads, “This is a time when we need to re-evaluate what we are doing even more than before. Yes, we have saved, curtailed our costs, become more efficient. Yet this is not enough. We must change.”

And it’s not just President Giles-Gee who believes that adaptability is an important asset in today’s higher education world.

The necessity of change is becoming an increasingly believed sentiment among higher education reformers who want to take the burden off young graduates buried in debt.

The logic is that to make college more affordable the whole system needs to change, become more efficient, and adapt to a  changing economic climate in order to offer more bang for the buck.

Anya Kamenetz, an expert on the subject of student debt and higher education reformation, who wrote the book Generation Debt and DIY U (Do It Yourself University), believes that all methods of education are inherently conservative, as education is essentially conserving information for the next generation.

As people conserve the information they are taught and teach it to the next generation two decades later, they conserve the methods of teaching in a sort of involuntary bequeathment, making all methods of instruction perpetually conventional. She argues that this makes much of the theorized changes in methods of higher education look dramatic when they really may be necessary.

However, Kamenetz believes that once it is accepted that higher education needs serious change, that change should lead to a more independent approach to education where people can chart their own path.

“All kinds of people are learning online in all kinds of ways, from professionals using Twitter to keep abreast of their field, to ambitious Indians and Africans signing on to MIT’s open courseware to learn engineering, and college students watching TED talks to augment what’s happening in their classes. An immersive four-year residential learning experience will continue to be coveted by some, but I don’t think it will remain the be all and end all of learning,”  Kamenetz said.

While Keene State College may not yet be participating in some of the more dramatic innovation and efficiency techniques advocated by Kemenetz and other higher education reformers, there is some serious progress towards a more innovative KSC.

“We have had the greatest success with hybrid courses, meaning a course that introduces the technology component into a course that also has in class experience,” Jay Kahn, the vice president for Finance and Planning at KSC, said.

“I think the integration of those learning modalities can enrich the educational process.”

However, the new innovations, while they may increase student achievement, do not directly lower cost and do not directly lower student debt.

“Student debt may be a part of the new normal,” Kahn said, hinting to the unfortunate idea that if the recent financial crisis ever lets up, the financial scars of the past decade may not heal as quickly as some had hoped, making huge college loans a standard feature of the American higher education experience. We might be too far down the path.

Kahn believes that best thing for Keene State College to do is weather the storm, to work hard and do the best you can with what you’ve got.

“Right now the Financial Office is working very hard with students and their family identifying where the aid opportunities are, helping student’s complete applications for assistance, whether that is through campus grants, federal funding, or other funding sources,” Kahn said.

Gina Quottrochi, a senior at Keene State College who is graduating this spring, is one of the students who is about to weather the storm of college loans.

“You have to take loans,” Quottrochi said. “I don’t know anyone that just has $25,000 lying around.”


Dylan Morrill can be contacted at dmorill1@ksc.mailcruiser.com.



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