USNH Officials Call for New Vision and Partnership with State
Leaders from across the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) testified Nov. 26, 2012, at the kickoff of the governor’s budget hearings.
The University System of New Hampshire pledged that it will use every dollar of its restored appropriation to increase access and opportunities for New Hampshire students and their families. With full funding, all four USNH institutions will freeze tuition, nearly double financial aid, and continue to develop partnerships with employers and the community college system to implement innovative paths to degree completion, especially in the STEM disciplines and other areas critical to the state’s economy.
Pamela Diamantis, vice chair of the USNH Board of Trustees, presented the USNH budget proposal to attendees. “My colleagues and I are here today to promote a new vision and partnership on behalf of the people of New Hampshire. We hope to begin a new era of opportunity through the investment in public higher education that benefits our young people and our future. We take pride that our governor-elect won office with a promise to restore education to a central place among the priorities of this state,” she said.
She noted that for the last biennium, public funding for in-state students at New Hampshire’s four-year colleges and universities suffered the largest percentage cut in our state’s history as it was cut nearly in half. “So, we are here today to support a new vision and partnership. We ask that you restore the state’s funding to the level that preceded the last biennium,” she added.
She was followed by USNH Chancellor Ed MacKay, who focused his comments on cost efficiency measures that were implemented as a result of the reduction in the last biennial budget. “When faced with the sudden and dramatic loss of funding, the System Office and our campuses implemented plans that did not directly affect the quality of education. We absorbed more than 80 percent of the loss through tactical steps to allow sufficient time to appropriately address structural cost issues in a manner that mitigates the impact on students. We instituted layoffs, early retirement incentives, benefits reductions, a hiring freeze, and reduced and deferred expenses.”
“In-state tuitions did increase to make up the portion of the lost funding. Although tuition increases were kept to a minimum, we know that every time tuition goes up, it hurts New Hampshire families and makes the future of all our children less secure,” he added.
All four presidents were in attendance and submitted written testimony. UNH President Mark Huddleston and PSU President Sara Jayne Steen spoke briefly. In his testimony, UNH President Mark Huddleston stated the following: “A restored appropriation also will allow us nearly to double both need-based and merit aid for New Hampshire students. We will add aid for our neediest students, expand merit grants to attract New Hampshire’s highest-achieving high school graduates to study in STEM disciplines, and support students in unpaid internships with New Hampshire businesses and nonprofits. New Hampshire cannot cede its place in the innovation and technology marketplace to Massachusetts. A renewed partnership with the State of New Hampshire would provide a strong catalyst to our efforts on behalf of the state’s young people, its businesses, and its future, he added.”
President Steen focused her comments on the strong public support USNH has seen for restoring their funding. “The University System brings much more to New Hampshire’s economy than it did a decade ago and serves many more students. Education is the backbone of the economy, and STEM and health programs are more expensive than ever. Our proposal that our appropriation be restored in exchange for freezing tuition has achieved broad popular support. According to a recent Granite State poll, 71 percent of New Hampshire adults support restoring the appropriation along the lines we have described. In addition, we have received specific endorsements from business leaders around the state who believe that an investment in public higher education is essential to the future of the New Hampshire economy and its workforce. Some of them have spoken up; others will be doing so. More than 1,400 of our New Hampshire alumni, parents, friends, and students have told us they will be active in their own communities in support of this initiative. That number is growing.”
The state appropriations process will formally begin in early 2013.
Written by Matt Cookson, USNH.