Students Graduating From NH Colleges Have Highest Average Debt

By Lauren Leamanczyk, WBZ-TV's New Hampshire Bureau Chief

DURHAM, N.H. (CBS) -It’s a tough time to be graduating from college. Jobs are hard to find and student debt is skyrocketing.

A new study shows the problem is especially big in New Hampshire. Students graduating from New Hampshire colleges and universities in 2010 had a higher average debt than anywhere else in the country.

University of New Hampshire Senior Abby Zelenka will graduate fluent in Spanish and $75,000 in debt.

WBZ-TV’s Lauren Leamanczyk reports

“It’s not going to be pretty. I’m looking at 5 or 600 dollars a month.”

Abby’s debt load is high, but it’s not unusual in New Hampshire. Students here graduate with an average of $31,000 in debt, more than any other state. In Massachusetts, the average debt of graduating students is $25,000.

“We need to do a better job of educating families how to plan and how to pay for college,” said Tori Berube of the New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation.

Berube says New Hampshire’s public universities are among the most expensive in the country and there are no state grants available.

But there are options for families. First she says, make sure to fill out the FAFSA forms for federal aid. It’s a better deal than private loans.

Second, she says students need to be realistic about which schools they can afford. Families need to comparison shop.

“If they have to borrow you have to have that conversation about what that might look like four years from now.”

There are many scholarships available if you look. Many of them do not require straight A’s.

Students can also take extra credits and summer school to graduate early. They can attend two years of community college or try to cut back in other areas.

“Do I live at home and commute for a year? Do I take the full meal plan or do I take a reduced meal plan?,” are some of the questions Berube recommends students ask themselves.

James Harrington and his family had all of these conversations before deciding on the University of New Hampshire.

“It was definitely a factor when I was thinking about what college to go to,” he says.

In the end, they figured the investment was worth the debt.

“If you’re adamant about making it worth it, it’s all about what you make of it,” he said.

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