This week marks one year since the members of the New Hampshire General Court were sworn in, myself included. I serve on the House Education Committee, which deals with topics including parents’ rights, Critical Race Theory, and school choice. These higher-profile topics generate both public outcry and lengthy floor debates. Hence, sizable media attention is drawn to these issues.
However, as is typical, not all bills reach the House floor after a committee hearing and a single executive session. Instead, a portion of bills are retained in committee for further work throughout the summer and fall. I generally do not support bill retainment and vote against the motion. Often, I am the sole dissenter in 19-1 votes.
Nonetheless, our committee is divided into subcommittees to tackle the 20 retained bills. One bill assigned to my subcommittee was HB 623, “an act establishing a teacher candidate loan forgiveness program.”
HB 623 was particularly menacing due to its compiled amendments. For example, after failing to gain sufficient support, the bill’s sponsor proposed to strike “loan forgiveness” from the title.
Instead, HB 623 would have established an “educator incentive program.” Like Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Frankly, the deceitful name change was an indicator that public perception was prioritized over quality legislation.
Fortunately, the sponsor was unable to gain enough votes for the passage of HB 623. Instead, the House Education Committee recommended the bill be referred to Interim Study. In other words, assuming the House approves the Consent Calendar, a vote on HB 623 will be delayed even further. Meanwhile, I suspect the sponsor will continue to scramble for votes. I will continue to oppose HB 623.
In addition, loan forgiveness is a topic of national debate. Notably, the Biden administration announced plans to cancel approximately $430 billion in student loans. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the executive action, citing a violation of the HEROES Act of 2003. For reference, the case is Biden v. Nebraska, et al.
Rather than remedy amassing student debt, we should address the root of the issue—the cost of college.
New Hampshire has among the highest in-state tuition costs in the country, second only to Vermont. The in-state tuition cost is even higher than many out-of-state tuition costs in the Northeast. In other words, it can be more cost-effective for New Hampshire students to travel elsewhere for higher education. Unfortunately, many of these students do not return, contributing to New Hampshire’s workforce shortage and aging population.
Still, an even greater disservice is done to students within New Hampshire’s University System. After agreeing to pay the comparatively higher in-state tuition, students then agree to take out federal loans. As a result, students enter a contractual agreement to pay them back. However, many are not able to, and so are shackled by debt.
As a solution, House Democrats support severing contracts entirely. This ‘solution’ is not fair to thousands of New Hampshire taxpayers who did not take out student loans. Moreover, this would be unfair to taxpayers who already struggled to pay off student debt. Would they be entitled to retroactive reimbursement?
Furthermore, what contracts would we allow to be broken next?
These unanswered questions make a clear case against erasing student debt. Yet, an even greater objection is that loan forgiveness incentivizes tuition increases. Passing legislation to forgive student loans would send a powerful message to universities. No matter the source of the funds, whether it be the borrower or the taxpayers, the university would cash the check. In other words, universities could raise tuition prices without recourse. Hence, student debt would increase, and the problem would be compounded.
The universities are aware of the debt crisis, which is why the University of New Hampshire froze tuition. In the 2024-2025 school year, tuition will not increase for the sixth year in a row. Others may be impressed by this, but I am not. Freezing in-state tuition at a price far higher than neighboring universities is nothing to brag about. Moreover, UNH’s total endowment equated to $265.7 million as of June 2022. Surely, UNH can afford to decrease tuition.
In addition to the high costs, there have been mounting concerns that students are limited in exercising their right to free speech on campus. HB 516 aimed to address this issue but died on the table. However, I am a co-sponsor of HB 1305, which will re-examine campus free speech.
All things considered, I did not apply to the University of New Hampshire. Instead, I opted to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree in political science online at Southern New Hampshire University. By avoiding room and board fees, working part-time, earning merit scholarships, and participating in dual enrollment, I will graduate debt-free and in half the time. I am in the SNHU Class of ’24.
My goal in sharing my story is to help any prospective students who may be reading this. Please know that there are more affordable education options. Also, you do not need to attend college. We need to recognize alternatives, such as entering the workforce or the military.
Thank you. Please do not hesitate to reach out via email: [email protected] or on my website: McDonnellForSalem.com.