The idea of Debt Free College is being floated by all three of the Democratic Presidential Primary candidates. Though they vary on how they would like to accomplish this goal, the idea is that a basic college education should be open to everyone and be covered by the state like we cover elementary schools.
For too many students the cost of a college degree is too much to bear, even with Pell Grants and the ability to take out student loans. This keeps many stuck in the low-wage job cycle, as more and more employers are requiring a college education before being considered for employment.
We already know that workers with a college degree earn higher wages. In 2011, college graduates earned between $20,000-$25,000 more annually that those with only a high school diploma.
Even our community college system is unaffordable for many students. 40% of all community college students must take out a loan just to receive a two-year associates degree. Considering that 40% of all college students attend community colleges that equates to a ton of students.
New Hampshire is leading the country when it comes to student debt and cost of higher education. This is not something to be proud of.
New Hampshire is the number one state in the country for the percentage of students who graduate with massive student debt. 76% of graduates walk out of New Hampshire colleges with an average of $33,410 in student loans.
New Hampshire is also dead last in the amount of money given by the state to support our public universities. The state spends about $104 per capita for higher education. The national average is more than double what NH spends at $242.45.
As a matter of fact, New Hampshire spends more money on prisons that we do on our colleges and universities.
Many states are still struggling to recover from the 2008 recession and the severe cuts to their budgets as a result of lost revenue. In budgetary funding New Hampshire is still 26.8% below where we were prior to the crash in 2008.
Budgetary cuts and low funding to our public colleges and universities have shifted the burden directly to the students. To compensate for the lack of support from the state budget, NH colleges and universities have been forced to increase tuition putting NH squarely at the top of the list for highest in-state tuition.
Legislators from ten different states (NH, IA, SC, MA, HI, SD, IL, WI, and MO) plan to submit similar resolution to evaluate the potential of making their public colleges and universities debt free.
If our goal as a nation is to have the best educated population in the world, we must ensure that every student has the ability to attend college without being saddled with overwhelming student debt. This all begins with making public colleges and universities debt free.