With New Hampshire four-year public colleges having the highest in-state tuition in the nation, students and families across the state undoubtedly feel the impact — and many are choosing schools elsewhere as a result.
According to recent data released by The College Board, a nonprofit organization that connects students to colleges, New Hampshire's in-state tuition and fees for 2017-18 cost students $16,073. That's compared to Wyoming at $5,217 — the lowest in the nation; and neighboring Massachusetts at $12,732 and Maine at $9,965. Vermont, on the other hand, has been dancing with New Hampshire for the top cost for some time, this year coming in just $30 lower at $16,043.
At the same time, New Hampshire's public higher education has the lowest state support per capita in the country, according to data from the University System of New Hampshire. USNH is the public college and university system for the state and includes the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University, Keene State College, and Granite State College.
According to a report, USNH Chancellor Todd Leach and Treasurer Catherine Provencher sought more state funding in their last budget proposal, but were unsuccessful.
For fiscal year 2018, they requested $88.5 million in state support, and for fiscal 2019, they requested $93 million. However, according to the USNH Annual Report for 2017, USNH’s annual general appropriation from the state was held at $81 million, equal to the prior three years.
Tuition for public state schools is set by the the USNH Board of Trustees.
"Obviously having high in-state tuition is a challenge for some of our families," said Timberlane Regional High Director of School Counseling Barry Chooljian. "We certainly see the impact of that."
MANY GOING ELSEWHERE
Many college-bound students from New Hampshire are leaving the state for their studies.
According to data released by USNH, New Hampshire has the highest percentage of high-school graduates who will attend a four-year university leaving the state for college, at 59.6 percent. That's more than double the national average of 26.2 percent.
Local high schools support those numbers. For the past three years, about 50 percent of Timberlane's four-year college-bound students are going to out-of-state schools, according to Chooljian.
At Pinkerton Academy, 46 percent of graduates in 2016 and 47 percent in 2017 heading for a four-year college also chose an out-of-state school, according to Kristy Butler, head of school counseling at Pinkerton Academy.
Windham Director of Guidance Julie Lichtmann said she also has seen many Windham students searching for a more economical option.
"Much more in the last five or so years, we have had a lot more students expanding their searches and attending schools outside of New Hampshire," Lichtmann said.
She also said that she has seen an increasing number of students attending community college for two years and then transferring to a four-year university in an effort to minimize tuition costs.
Both Butler and Chooljian said that many students graduating from Pinkerton and Timberlane are also taking that route.
"It could be an excellent way to start their college education career out and we are supportive of that," Chooljian said. "Sometimes it is, financially, a great decision."
While Butler said finances are the biggest factor for students and families when choosing a college, she has not seen a decrease in Pinkerton students attending public state schools.
"I think that even though it's the highest in-state (tuition), it's still more economical than going to an out-of-state school or private institution," Butler said. "So as much as they don't want to be paying those prices for in-state, it is still more advantageous than going out of state."
Nicole Burke, director of school counseling at Salem High, also said that she has not see any particular trends of students straying from applying to New Hampshire schools. She attributes this to Salem's approach in helping students prepare for choosing the right college.
"We really try hard to educate students and families on thinking about themselves as individuals — what is appropriate for their family and their interests, and their career's interest, and what they need in a college, while making decisions. Because you never know what kind of financial aid package you will see from colleges."
THE FINANCIAL-AID FACTOR
Burke emphasized that financial-aid packages differ greatly and that an expensive in-state school could offer a family more money than a cheaper out-of-state school.
Overall though, Burke added that over the last several years, she has seen students become further invested in making the right financial choice for their family.
In addition, more than just affecting the general numbers of students attending in-state or out-of-state schools, Butler said that one of the biggest changes Pinkerton has seen relates to their top 10 percent of students.
"The top 10 percent of the class used to go to other institutions that were more exclusive schools and now they are kind of not pursuing those (schools) and opting for other colleges ... that will offer them a better financial aid package," she said.
Recognizing the high cost of tuition and making efforts to find ways to lower costs, USNH has saved more than $1 million in the past year by consolidating vehicle rentals into a single agreement, aligning software pricing between universities, and decreasing UNH's costs for dining services, according to the USNH Annual Report for 2017.
In addition, the University of New Hampshire also rolled out Granite Guarantee, a program through which more than 400 students who qualify for need-based federal Pell grants are able to attend UNH tuition-free for all four years of college.
“The most expensive degrees are those that students do not finish and USNH is particularly proud to have one of the highest completion rates in the country and one of the lowest student-loan default rates, meaning our students are getting jobs and paying back their loans," Leach said. "While flat state funding has been a pressure point on tuition, we have been aggressive as a university system leveraging efficiencies to keep any increases down to inflationary levels while also increasing financial aid for students.”
In-state tuition costs
New Hampshire — $16,073
Vermont — $16,043
Massachusetts — $12,732
Maine — $9,965