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|Facing the Challenges to Our Way of Life|
|Published Friday, August 17, 2012|
New Hampshire consistently ranks among the most “livable” states. Granite Staters are healthier, wealthier, and safer than Americans as a whole. There is much to be proud of in this, but it’s important to look more closely at the numbers.
For example, the state ranks in the top 10 for percentage of residents with post-high school degrees. But among natives, we are 46th. As the fastest growing state in the northeast for the past two decades, NH attracted well-educated people from elsewhere. Now in-migration has virtually stopped, and we must educate in place. In that, we face real challenges.
We have the highest public university tuition and the lowest level of public funding in the country. Consequently, our students carry the greatest debt burden and it is growing at twice the national rate. If these trends are not addressed, it’s hard to see how we sustain our workforce and economic edge and other indicators of livability. Our aging population will exacerbate these challenges. In 20 years there will be six Granite Staters over 65 or under 18 for every one who is working. If nothing else, it is in our own self-interest to make sure that one worker has the education to succeed.
As a partner and funder of student aid since the 1970s, the NH Charitable Foundation stands ready to help. With the recent drastic state cuts, we are now the largest provider of general scholarships in the state. That is a testament to the foresight and generosity of private donors. They are willing to give, but not to do it all. The legislature needs to step back to the plate.
We agree with business and education leaders who encourage multiple pathways from high school to success. That’s why we fund certificate programs, job training, and community college, as well as four-year and graduate degrees.
This may be the state’s most serious challenge, but I have one huge reason for hope—students like David, who wrote in thanks for a recent scholarship: “Your generosity has inspired me to give back to the community.” That community, of course, is us.
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