New Hampshire Rates Highest For Student Indebtedness. Where do the Candidates Stand on Student Loans and Debt?

Melanie Matts, Managing Editor

In August, President Biden announced a three-part Student Debt Relief Plan which would allow eligible borrowers up to $10,000 in student loan forgiveness and up to $10,000 more for pell-grant recipients. The announcement and application came just a few months before the midterm election, making it a big topic of conversation for politicians and voters.

According to WalletHub, New Hampshire has the highest rate of indebtedness as of 2022. New Hampshire graduates average $34,085 in debt, according to the Education Data Initiative

At the University of New Hampshire (UNH), the state’s largest public institution, approximately 65% of students borrow loans, with 48% of UNH’s main campus being in-state students. 

Here’s what New Hampshire nominees have to say about student loans and debt.

Gubernatorial Election

Current State Senator and Democratic candidate Tom Sherman is challenging current Governor and Republican candidate, Chris Sununu for this year’s gubernatorial election. Both Sherman and Sununu haven’t mentioned much when it comes to student loan relief in their priorities for the election.

One of Sherman’s top three priorities is “Lowering Costs for Granite Staters,” according to his campaign website, but there’s no mention of what that entails for students of the Granite state or how he plans to address debt relief. 

Sununu spoke out against Biden’s student debt relief plan.

“Let’s be clear: President Biden did not cancel student debt — he transferred it on to the backs of millions of hardworking Americans who chose not to go to college for expensive degrees,”he said during an appearance on  CNN.

U.S. Senate 

For the Senate race, Democratic candidate and current Senator Maggie Hassan is up against Republican candidate, Don Bolduc.

In an episode of “Politics as Usual,” a TNH podcast, Hassan had much to say on the topic of student loans. After detailing what she’s done for Granite State students, Hassan concurred with President Biden’s decision.

“I do not support canceling all student debt,” she said.“I do think that what the president did is a balanced compromise and it is targeted in its results that 90% or so of the relief in his plan will go to people earning $75,000 or less.” 

According to Bolduc’s campaign website, one of his main priorities is a strong economy. While he does not address student loans explicitly, his website states, “No more bailouts, no more government handouts, no more spending packages without corresponding cuts,” suggesting disagreement with Biden’s plan and his future opposition to initiatives like it.

U.S. House 

This year’s candidates running for Representative in Congress are Democrat Chris Pappas and Republican Karoline Leavitt. Both Pappas and Leavitt have publicly spoken on the agenda of student loans and Biden’s Student Debt Relief Plan. 

In a recent episode of  “Politics as Usual,” Pappas dove deeper into his critique of Biden’s relief plan. 

“The focus needs to be on the root problem here; this does provide some help for folks who have already gone through school and have taken on a mountain of debt, but it doesn’t address the affordability issue moving forward,” Pappas stated. “That’s where I really want to focus.”

He continued by sharing how he wants to focus on aspects such as interest rates and expanding pell grants along with tuition assistance programs.

“Pell has traditionally provided much more support for students if you look back 20 or 30 years than it does today in terms of their tuition bill,” Pappas said. “We should be expanding that program. Also looking to expand tuition assistance and loan forgiveness programs so that folks can get out into the workforce and take jobs in high demand areas.”

Pappas later drew attention to the fact that UNH has one of the highest in-state tuitions of any public university in the country. 

“This is not just a federal question. It’s also an important state question,” he said. “The state of New Hampshire needs to step up in a much bigger way to provide the kind of support for UNH that could help control increasing costs for students as well as making sure that our university system is more affordable.”  

Leavitt has also openly opposed Biden’s relief plan, though for much different reasons. 

“This plan to cancel student loan debt amounts to nothing more than political prodigality designed to secure young people’s vote in the elections to come,” she wrote in a recent Op-Ed.

Leavitt goes on to share her own experiences with college debt after graduating from Saint Anselm College in her home state of New Hampshire.

“However, attending college at the end of the day is a personal choice and that consequences the follow should not be thrust upon those who did not decide to go to college,” she wrote.

Leavitt promotes vocational schools, and joining the military as alternate routes of education to minimize debt, according to the article and her campaign website

For students looking for more information on how to vote in the upcoming election on Nov. 8, 603 Forward offers information on their website. Students can also access more information on how to vote by checking out the University of New Hampshire Voting page.