Student submits testimony to State Senate
New Hampshire State Senate Finance Committee FY12-13 USNH Operating Budget Hearing April 18, 2011
Testimony by Gina Chaput , University of New Hampshire
My name is Gina Chaput. I am a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire pursuing my Bachelors of Science in genetics. I grew up in Merrimack, NH and attended Merrimack high school. If it wasn’t for UNH, my research and related accomplishments would never have been possible. Due to the professors at UNH who are so willing to bring undergraduates into their labs, I have spent two years researching biofuels relating to algae feedstock as a renewable energy source. Not many students from other universities can say that prior to their junior or even senior year. These offers are usually for upperclassmen in private universities but UNH prides itself in the importance of students collaborating and conducting research with faculty as soon as possible.
My concern for the House's 45% cut to the university’s budget is that the opportunities that I have been able to gain through UNH will no longer be available because they simply will not have the funding. I know many of my fellow students are in a state of panic because these research opportunities that medical schools, graduate schools, and businesses look for and give us the competitive advantage will be available but with the possibility of no funding such as a stipend. These stipends are critical for students because we all are faced with large tuition bills, books, and other expenses. Without these stipends, students will not have the means to have these experiences and instead will end up being forced into working occupations unrelated to our majors. We will not be able to compete in the job market or further our education compared to other students who are able to access their school’s offers. I know personally that if the stipend for my Undergraduate Research Award had not been available this past winter, I would have had to go back home and work as a waitress just to sustain myself for the rest of the school year. Imagine how this budget will affect students trying to better themselves for the jobs available in NH but are already struggling financially to obtain their higher education. You would be holding them back from their full potential.
Not only is funding for research very important to my peers and I but the ability to share our findings is also important. Over 900 students, representing different disciplines from science to the arts, present their research they’ve done over the year at the Undergraduate Research Conference held and funded by UNH later this month. It is the largest conference for undergraduate research in the country. UNH knows how to give their students not just a chance to display their work to students and faculty, but also to industries that come to seek interns, organizations, and other opportunities throughout NH. As a second year attendee, my first thought when I heard about the budget cut was how would this affect the conference? I fear that we would have to cut back on this event and miss out on the chance to have undergraduates learn how to present themselves as prospective adults in the working world.
I ask that you reconsider the university's budget not just as a UNH student who’s struggling with multiple school loans and working hard to obtain her education, but as a NH citizen who wants her state’s leaders to acknowledge that if you hold us back, you are holding New Hampshire back. A drastic budget cut will not help my NH community nor will it give us the full higher education experience we deserve and our society needs. And this is not just any higher education experience but a university that goes beyond the books and molds us into the adults we need to be in order to pull our state out of this economic crisis. I thank you for your consideration and your time to hear my concerns.