Laconia Citizen: Kuster seeks PSU’s support against loan interest hike
PLYMOUTH — Students at Plymouth State University met with U.S. Congresswoman Annie Kuster, Tuesday morning, to gather stories from actual students to bring back to Congress, to help beat a bill that could potentially double the student loan fixed interest rate starting July 1.
Kuster also met with students and staff at Nashua Community College, Monday, to gather information, and has called for bipartisan action to prevent the fixed interest rate on subsidized Strafford loans to go from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. This, she said, would make it harder for students and middle class families around the state and across the nation to afford college. Not only would this make it tough on students, but it would also be a hit on the colleges and universities as well.
Last week, Kuster cosponsored the College Cost Reduction Act, which is a bill that she calls common sense legislation that would prevent student loan rates from doubling in July and extend the current rate for two years. According to her website, she also launched an online survey to hear directly from residents about how a doubling of the interest rate on student loans would impact their families.
The roundtable discussion at PSU also allowed Kuster to hear the stories of a wide range of undergraduate and graduate students, along with several members of the faculty including Sara Jayne Steen, PSU’s president. Every student had a different story and journey through college, but one thing in common was that paying for school was something on their minds and the minds of their families. Many of the students had other siblings who had already attended, or would be attending, college.
One student, Nicolas Bergeron, said that he has been fortunate enough to have not accumulated too much debt because he has been a Resident Advisor on campus. However, it is still $14,000 and by the end of his time in school could be $20,000.
“You are below the average but nonetheless, 20,000 is substantial,” Kuster said.
Kuster pointed out that while the average amount of money owed in New Hampshire for students is $32,000, it still isn’t exactly a small amount of money to owe. New Hampshire has the highest debt burden of any state in the country. It was also noted that nearly 80 percent of PSU students leave school with some amount of debt.
She added that she there was a time where this could have meant a down payment on a house, or the cost of a good car. Senior Anastasia DeFlumeri will have racked up about $52,000 in debt, has had to take out private loans, had to drop her minor due to costs and still works as a server at the Mount Washington Hotel.
Jill Tarkleson received her undergraduate degree six years ago, but is now taking graduate courses at a 6.8 percent interest rate. She said that it is overwhelming and, at times, has struggled with costs of living.
Jim Hundreiser, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, also told Kuster that he feels that if it were possible, they could have 250 more students doing work studies. Kuster said that this is important information to know because there is a premium for employers to have people who display good work ethic.
Other students told their stories about their direction in school and beyond, and Kuster was thoroughly impressed by the stories and how the information will be useful in Washington. While not all of them exhibited large amounts of debt, most had accumulated some and others were dreading the possibility of it in the future.
“I think it is a really important conversation,” said Kuster. “What’s great about having these stories is I can bring these stories back to my colleagues. The big picture is that we need to cut the budget and control the deficit of the debt, but not on the backs of the students.”