New Hampshire State Senate Finance Committee

FY12-13 USNH Operating Budget Hearing

April 18, 2011


Testimony by Mark W. Huddleston, President
University of New Hampshire


Good Morning.  My name is Mark Huddleston and I am the President of the University of New Hampshire.

I would like to open my remarks with a statement that might surprise you: I am not here to ask for a level-funded appropriation. I am not even going to ask that you avoid cutting beyond what has been proposed by Gov. Lynch.

I appreciate that New Hampshire, like the rest of America, is facing a major fiscal crisis. And I have said all along that UNH is ready to be part of the solution.

I do want to tell you how UNH is already responding to both the state’s fiscal crisis and the challenges facing higher education. These efforts might also surprise you.

Let me start with just a few quick facts about UNH and what we are doing now:

•    Each year, UNH-educated students contribute $562 million to a skilled New Hampshire workforce—and overall UNH contributes $1.3 billion to the New Hampshire economy.  Those are remarkable returns on what in recent years has been a $68 million state investment.

•    UNH provides New Hampshire with the highly qualified engineers, biomedical scientists, and mathematicians that the state’s economy demands. In fact, UNH graduates nearly a third of the state’s new college graduates in science-related fields.

•    UNH is spearheading the $66 million “Network New Hampshire Now” project that will bring broadband technology to every corner of the state, an effort critical to New Hampshire’s economic future.

•    UNH is an incubator for small and emerging businesses—businesses that rely on our research, technology, and intellectual capital to survive.  For example, the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center at UNH is the only source of certified, full-time business advisers to provide long-term management advice to small businesses. Last year, it advised 724 companies in 181 New Hampshire communities--resulting in a return of $10 in tax revenues and $158 in wages for every dollar invested by the state.

•    The New Hampshire Innovation Research Center at UNH has awarded more than $6 million to 129 companies. Matching money brings the total to $20 million over 20 years.

•    Last summer, UNH launched the New Hampshire Innovation Commercialization Center at Pease Tradeport. This effort provides expert advice, business services, and seed money to new companies--including those that are using UNH-patented technology.

•    UNH captures more federal research dollars per faculty member than any other land grant university in New England. Since 2001, we have had 174 invention disclosures, filed 83 patent applications, executed 97 license agreements, spun-off 8 start-up companies, and received almost $2 million dollars in royalties.

As proud as we are of these contributions and accomplishments, we at UNH are not resting on our laurels.  In fact, UNH is committed to tackling an even bigger challenge—reinventing higher education for the 21st century.

When I unveiled UNH’s new strategic plan just over a year ago, the first thing I said was that the business model for higher education—here in New Hampshire and across the nation—is broken.

I showed a simple line-graph that displayed with one line changes in the cost of living over time, and with a second line changes in the cost of attending UNH.

Here’s what the graph showed: Thirty years ago, the average New Hampshire family needed to spend 40% of its disposable annual income to send a son or daughter to UNH.  That was a lot, but today, that grown son or daughter can expect to spend 60% of his or her family’s disposable income to send one of their own children to UNH.  And, using very conservative assumptions, if current trends continue, just ten years from now that number will rise to 75% of disposable income.

As I said to my colleagues on campus that day:  That is unsustainable.  We need to bend the cost curve.  What we do at UNH is extremely important, even, in some ways, noble.  But no matter how good or intrinsically important a product or service may be, if it is priced at a level that the market can’t bear, demand will evaporate, and the would-be provider of the product or service will disappear.

The paradox, of course, is that the need for higher education has never been greater.  America (and New Hampshire) will not survive, much less thrive, in the highly competitive, globally interdependent, knowledge-driven 21st century without robust institutions providing quality higher education to even more of our citizens.

We at the University of New Hampshire are addressing that paradox head on.  Through our strategic plan, we have committed ourselves to fixing the business model—and to becoming, as a result, a model for the rest of America.  This will mean changing almost everything we do:  how we teach, what we teach, when and where we teach; how we organize ourselves internally and how we partner with others externally; who we think of as students and how they interact with one another and with members of the faculty; how we conduct research and what we do with the fruits of that research.

This is hard work.  Change always is, especially for institutions as steeped in tradition as American universities.  Indeed, in many ways, the structure and fundamental operating assumptions of higher education haven’t really changed a great deal in hundreds of years.  Our academic calendars are still synched to the rhythms of a predominately agricultural society, where one semester ends just in time for spring planting and the next begins only when the fall harvest is in.  We still too-frequently convey information in fifty-minute lectures delivered by a “sage on the stage” to largely passive recipients in the audience three times a week for fifteen weeks a term—as if that schedule were Biblically decreed and as if that were the way that “digital natives” actually learn today.  Worse, we remain wedded to a credentialing regimen of courses and majors and degrees that mainly reflect “seat time,” rather than what students actually learn or need to learn.  And perhaps worst of all, we still cling, occasional rhetoric aside, to a vision of higher education that is both a way-station and a world apart, where our primary mission is to take into our cloistered quadrangles a narrow band of eighteen to twenty-one year olds, educate and entertain them for four years, and then send them off, never to return, except for the occasional alumni weekend—as if we didn’t live in a world where need for education and skill renewal weren’t constant and society-wide, where students graduating this May will have multiple careers, including in fields that don’t even yet exist, and where relationships between business and non-profits and government and other institutions are defined not by walls, but by bridges.

Fortunately, we at UNH get this, and many long-overdue changes are already underway at our campuses in Durham, Manchester, Concord and beyond. We’ve begun shaking up the academic calendar through January term and our methods of teaching through eUNH.  We’ve re-energized our research mission, forged new and stronger business partnerships, and kindled a spirit of entrepreneurship that will better serve all our citizens. And we have dedicated ourselves, above all, to keeping our state’s flagship public university affordable to working families.

So, what am I asking of you, honorable members of the Senate Finance Committee and our state Senate?

I am asking that you give us time.

Originally, our strategic plan sought to achieve its goals by 2020. We now know that we don’t have 10 years to make that happen. But we need more than 10 months.

The House’s proposed cuts are so disproportionate and so drastic that they would threaten the ongoing transformation at UNH just as it is taking hold.  I am asking that you provide UNH with the support we need to complete our metamorphosis.

I ask this not for myself or my colleagues or even for the students who are now enrolled at UNH.  I ask it instead for the next generation of students and families and New Hampshire citizens who need a strong, vibrant, affordable, reinvented, flagship public university.

With a wise and appropriate level of state support, and with your active engagement, we can do this.  We can confront and resolve the paradox of a system of higher education that is at once unsustainable and indispensable.

Thank you for your time today, and the opportunity to speak about UNH’s vital role in maintaining New Hampshire’s quality of life. I will be happy to answer your questions.

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