DURHAM — Democratic students at the University of New Hampshire gathered Monday to express their concerns about Gov. Chris Sununu’s budget, which they say fails young adults struggling with student debt.
“I am here today because students like me are a part of a crisis, and Governor Sununu’s budget does nothing to address this crisis. Governor Sununu proposed a budget that flat funds state aid for higher education,” Junior Joey Ramirez said.
Ramirez is a student senator and says with New Hampshire being ranked among one of the most expensive states to attend college, ignoring the student debt problem is not an option.
“Democrats are fighting for a future where those who want to stay here pursue higher education and better the state can do so without the tens of thousands of dollars of crippling student debt,” Ramirez said.
Junior Lindy Hamilton said Sununu’s budget will push more high school graduates out of the state.
“In a world where higher education is the key to opportunity and success, it is critical New Hampshire students, like me and my peers, are not burdened with the increasing rates of student debt,” Hamilton said.
State Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, said student debt slows down students who want to start their own lives after college.
“The student debt crisis robs our young people of their financial freedom, and that steals from them the opportunities they worked so hard to gain. Governor Sununu’s budget does nothing to lessen this burden on the next generation of Granite Staters,” Watters said.
Watters said Sununu’s plan will almost certainly lead to tuition increases. Democrats want to lower tuition rates and fees, he said.
In his February budget address, Sununu proposed a $24 million investment to double the capacity of health care and nursing programs within the university system.
“The answer to the high burdens of college debt is not to give free diplomas to everyone; it is to create a system that incentivizes students to stay and work in our great state through a student debt assistance program,” Sununu said.
Sununu said the state piloted this idea within the area of regenerative medicine last year.
This year, he plans to build on that by restructuring cash funds, leading the nation with a new $32 million student loan assistance program available to all students at no additional cost to taxpayers, he said.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party held similar events Monday at Plymouth State University and Keene State College.