I have a question for Mitt Romney that's been nagging me since January, which was the last time he was here in New Hampshire before his visit this week. Back then he told an audience concerned about rising tuition costs that "market forces" would sort the problem out over the long term. Mitt's advice to struggling students?
We've gotten to know Romney pretty well given that he's spent the last five years campaigning in New Hampshire, but this comment is surprisingly out of touch - even for him. I'm a former college president, so I know firsthand that New Hampshire students are shopping around—but they need help. The reality is that thousands of New Hampshire families can't pay for the quality education their kids need to compete in the global economy. We can't allow college costs to spiral out of control while we sit back in the hope that the market forces that have been driving these costs up suddenly turn tail and solve the problem for us.
As this study made clear at the time Mitt was still criss-crossing our state, New Hampshire students are more in debt than students anywhere else in the country. College and university graduates here had on average $31,048 in debt in 2010, the most in the country. New Hampshire also has the second-greatest proportion of students with debt, 74 percent.
And it gets worse. The budget that Mitt Romney endorsed—the Romney-Ryan budget— would put college even further out of reach for Granite State students. Under the budget, student loan interest rates would double for New Hampshire’s nearly 38,000 students, and deep cuts to Pell Grants would cost the average student more than $800 per year.
What's more, Romney recently said at a closed-door fundraiser that he wants to make the Department of Education a "heck of a lot smaller," which would have devastating effects on New Hampshire schools. For Berlin alone, this would put 15.3% of the district’s total school budget at risk.
The President shares our values on keeping college affordable for all. In New Hampshire, we believe that access to higher educationwithout taking on crippling debtis the cornerstone of an economy built to last and the investment pays off.
So here's my question for Governor Romney, which he didn't answer when he gave his speech last night: Why aren't you serious about investing in the next generation of Granite Staters?