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Spiraling college costs prompt N.H. families to seek financial aid

66,000 filed applications in first half of year

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Associated Press / August 18, 2008
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MANCHESTER, N.H. - Rising college costs are putting the squeeze on family budgets and more people looking to attend college in New Hampshire applied for financial aid this year.

The US Education Department says aid requests at more than a dozen New Hampshire colleges and universities went up 16 percent overall from last year.

Higher college costs, fewer private loans, tighter credit access, and the economy all are combining to make things tougher for college students.

"All these pressures are somewhat creating a perfect storm in which students and parents are aggressively seeking financial assistance from colleges and from anywhere else they can go," said Thomas Horgan, president and CEO of the New Hampshire College & University Council, a consortium of 17 public and private institutions of higher education in New Hampshire.

Overall, more than 66,000 people sought aid from New Hampshire schools during the first six months of this year, compared to about 57,000 during the same time frame last year.

The 16 percent increase was four points higher than the national average.

St. Anselm College saw a record number applying for admission - more than 3,500 - helping boost aid requests by 14 percent, according to Elizabeth Keuffel, the school's financial aid director.

Aid is up about $1,000 per student at the college, but the overall cost of attending rose about $2,000, Keuffel told the New Hampshire Sunday News.

According to federal financial aid application figures, Colby-Sawyer College was up 22.7 percent, Southern New Hampshire University 20.4 percent, New England College 16.7 percent, and Keene State 16.4 percent.

The University of New Hampshire saw requests rise 14 percent for the first six months.

Figures compiled from federal financial aid forms showed Dartmouth receiving 30 percent more aid requests from applicants for the first half of 2008.

Much of that was because of a 17 percent rise in the number of admissions applications, according to Virginia Hazen, Dartmouth's director of financial aid.

But looking at the students accepted for this year's incoming class, "we've actually seen a small downtick in the number of students who requested aid," Hazen told the newspaper. Among new students making up the college's class of 2012, 67 percent asked for financial aid, down from 69 percent the previous year.

Dartmouth tuition bills were mailed Friday and probably will prompt more students to seek aid once they figure out they do not have sufficient resources to cover the costs, she said.

At Plymouth State, nearly 7 percent more people asked for financial help.

June Schlabach, financial aid director at Plymouth State University, said schools are pushing for families to apply even if they think they aren't eligible.

"We have a lot of families who are experiencing financial difficulties," she said, adding the school tries to work to get students everything they are eligible for.

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