An Update on Our Challenges and Opportunities
Now that the budget approved by the New Hampshire Legislature is in place, I want to update you on our challenges, our responses, and the opportunities ahead for the University community.
As you know, this was an extremely difficult year for the University at the State House. Despite the best efforts of the UNH administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and our supporters throughout New Hampshire, we were unable to convince the Legislature to soften a deep cut to the University System. Our final loss of nearly 50 percent in state support—the largest reduction in public support for higher education in the nation—exceeded our worst-case scenario for state funding.
I know this period has been particularly hard on our colleagues. Your livelihoods have been at stake, and you have nevertheless continued your exceptional work as educators, researchers, and staff. Your courage and perseverance, your daily insistence that we must care first for our students, has inspired my conversations with legislators, business leaders, and others.
I cannot yet offer you the reassurances I would like about the long-term financial health of the University. While we had anticipated a continuing erosion of state support, this year’s cut was extreme, and it obviated plans to make a more gradual transition toward new funding sources and new instructional approaches envisioned in the strategic plan.
These challenges notwithstanding, you can be assured that we will engage with our legislators again in the fall, seeking to protect our financial position during the second year of the two-year state budget. We will continue to brief our alumni, parents, and friends on the financial state of the University and to make a strong case for their support. And, with your help, we will continue to develop a model for a UNH that is more financially sustainable.
It may seem obvious, yet in these difficult times one point in particular bears repeating: our shorter-term sacrifices are so important because they can help us clearly identify, preserve, and strengthen the best of what we already do. We must be innovative in the ways we deliver the essential service we provide our students and the larger society: to show young people the pathway to lifetimes of learning, achievement, and service.
The ability to inspire, to mentor, and to teach is at the heart of a great faculty. It infuses the work of all who aspire to be part of this community, including the staff who serve it with profound dedication. It becomes ever more important that we celebrate the talents and achievements we see around us and that we note even small milestones along our path to finding more sustainable financial footing.
The scope of the state budget cut has made it necessary to reduce the size of the University. Certainly, the sacrifices you have already made will minimize involuntary reductions in staffing. Of the approximately 150 positions we must eliminate, the vast majority will come through attrition, the separation incentive plan, and the hiring freeze.
Involuntary separations, or layoffs, currently number twelve at the University. We deeply regret all of these losses. But without your cooperation as we have frozen salaries and trimmed benefits, the toll would be much higher.
Most importantly, the sacrifices you have made allowed us to minimize the financial impact on our students, which is essential in maintaining access to UNH for New Hampshire residents from all economic circumstances. If we had chosen to ask students and their families to make up for the lost state appropriation, instead of a $650 increase in tuition, they would have faced a $4,650 rise, which would have put a UNH education out of reach for many. In the end, it will be our own faith in the power of higher education to shape the future of our state and our society that enables us to sustain the best of what we do—and, ultimately, inspires support from others.
Briefly, I would like to update you on activities that will help UNH adapt to new financial realities and highlight a few milestones in the implementation of our strategic plan.
• Strategic Review Committees: As announced in June, Provost John Aber has called together focus groups to discuss possible reorganization of our science- and technology-intensive units and the integration of possible Marine and Earth schools. A campus-wide discussion incorporating the results of these focus groups will begin in the fall. A second detailed study of graduate programs and the Graduate School will begin in August.
• New Ventures Fund: Last year, the president's cabinet pooled resources from reserves and from small, individual strategic accounts to seed the New Ventures Fund with $1 million to promote new interdisciplinary and collaborative research, teaching, and engagement activities. While the amount available this year will be smaller, the cabinet is committed to continuing this effort to support creative and innovative ideas that both enhance academic quality and improve our financial outlook.
• Navitas: The first class of international students has arrived through a UNH partnership with the Australian firm, Navitas. The program provides opportunities for academically qualified students from other countries to increase their fluency in English while they complete the first year of a baccalaureate degree program.
• The Confucius Institute: This new partnership between the University of New Hampshire and Chengdu University in China engages the life of the University with the larger community, both locally and globally. The institute offers a full curriculum in Chinese language and culture.
• Match UP Scholarships: Started last spring by the UNH Foundation, the Match UP program allowed supporters to name an endowed scholarship for $25,000—half the usual amount. Thirty donors contributed $930,000 by the program deadline, July 1.
• Major Campaign Planning: On July 1, the University entered the planning phase of a comprehensive, university-wide campaign. This will be the University’s most ambitious campaign ever.
• Admissions: At 13,483 in fiscal year 2012, enrollments continue to reflect the overall strength of the University. January term enrollments grew from 448 the first year to 639 in year two.
I will offer additional updates this fall about the progress we have made on these initiatives, as well as on our budget, and I look forward to a year in which we celebrate the extraordinary, ongoing successes of this academic community. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the remainder of the summer. Thanks again for all you do.
Mark W. Huddleston , President