Eagle Tribune: Salem Students Eye Skyrocketing College Costs
As college tuition rates continue to soar, Congresswoman Ann Kuster and higher education experts gathered Friday at Salem High School to help students and their families prepare for what to expect.
One thing most can expect is thousands and thousands of dollars in student debt, the experts said.
That's because New Hampshire residents paying student loans owe an average of $33,000, Granite State College President Mark Rubenstein said.
While paying for a college education may seem overwhelming, proper planning can make the process much easier, according to Rubenstein and the other experts.
"It may seem like a frightening number, but it's much more manageable than you think," he said.
Kuster, D-N.H., and the 10 other panelists, including two teens preparing for college, spoke to about 75 students about applying to schools, financial aid options and how to best tackle the fiscal and academic challenges they may face while furthering their education beyond high school.
The congresswoman was joined by Salem High administrators Christopher Dodge and Nicole Burke, and representatives from education institutions and organizations throughout the state.
They included the New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation and the University System of New Hampshire, to name a few.
"The reason why you are here is to think about how to pay for college," principal Tracy Collyer told the students. "Take advantage of the people here and ask plenty of questions."
The students were told by the group that applying for scholarships and taking advantage of high school programs that offer college credit can go a long way toward saving them and their families significant time and money.
One key factor for students is doing their best in school, which can open up more opportunities — including increased eligibility for scholarships, according to Scott Power, director of the New Hampshire Scholars Program.
"The No. 1 way to get those grants and scholarships is to do well in high school," Power said. "Your high school transcript is the ticket."
Attending a two-year community college can be a more financially viable option for families who expect to have difficulty paying for an education, Kuster said.
A single college credit can cost $200, said Tori Berube of the New Hampshire Higher Education Foundation.
Attending community college in New Hampshire can cost $3,500 per year in tuition alone while going to Plymouth State University is $22,000 a year in tuition and private colleges in the state cost between $42,000 and $47,000 annually, she said.
Kuster said the rising cost of higher education makes it essential for the students and their families to properly plan.
"This has been one of my biggest priorities," Kuster said. "We are trying to take a very comprehensive approach to make college more affordable."
The congresswoman spoke of action she is taking in Congress to help them save for college, including efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.
"It is our goal to keep the loans at the lowest possible interest rates," Kuster said.
Dodge, director of Salem High's Center for Career and Technical Education, said students at the school are able to take courses in pre-engineering and other technical subjects that offer up to 12 college credits as part of the Running Start Program.
Last year, 266 Salem High students participated in Running Start.
One student who has taken several of these college-credit courses is senior Peter Simari, who said he would like to major in computer science at Plymouth State or Southern New Hampshire University.
Simari was one of the student panelists along with fellow senior Jake Bosworth, who wants to major in pharmaceutical science. Both have been taking advanced classes in high school that will help them in college.
Simari said one reason why he would like to attend PSU is because he has three siblings already enrolled there. He said the forum was beneficial to him.
"I definitely learned a lot more about scholarships than I knew before," he said.
The forum was held as part of New Hampshire's "I am Going to College Month." Kuster and Gov. Maggie Hassan are among those who will attend a ceremony Monday at Concord High School to mark College Application Filing Week.