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One NH College Works to Increase Affordability Amidst Pandemic

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The cost to attend Southern New Hampshire University will decrease by more than 50% starting in fall 2021. (Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Adobe Stock)
The cost to attend Southern New Hampshire University will decrease by more than 50% starting in fall 2021. (Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Adobe Stock)
December 30, 2020

MANCHESTER, N.H. - As many families struggle financially in the pandemic, higher education becomes out of reach for more high-school seniors and graduates. But what if college cost less?

With schools facing lower enrollment numbers nationwide, Southern New Hampshire University has announced a massive reduction in its tuition cost. Instead of the current $32,000 a year, its programs will cost $10,000 to $15,000 starting in fall 2021.

SNHU President Paul LeBlanc said he hopes the change will attract students who might not otherwise think they can afford college - and also should keep at least some from taking on student debt.

"They're borrowing enormous amounts of money," he said, "so there's $1.6 trillion of student debt out there right now. That's more than all of our credit-card debt put together in the United States."

In today's world, he said, it's becoming increasingly difficult to launch a career path without some type of post-secondary credential. While many colleges make financial aid available to lower-income families, not everyone is familiar with how that process works. The average cost of college has almost doubled since the 1980s, at both private and public universities, even with in-state tuition.

LeBlanc, as a first-generation college student, said his higher-education experience unlocked a world of opportunities for him, as it does for many folks. He said college affordability has been a key issue at his school for some time, but the COVID-19 crisis amplified its urgency.

"If we don't figure out how to put that within reach, we'll leave too many Americans behind, and we see that today," he said. "There's an enormous equity gap. We see this particularly among communities of color, among students of color who are getting left behind."

Other schools across the country also have announced plans to lower tuition costs, including Rider University and Fairleigh Dickinson University, both in New Jersey, Springfield College in Alabama and Houghton College in New York.

Lily Bohlke, Public News Service - NH