Less public research university funding impacts opportunities at UNH
Published: Friday, October 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
A recent study by the National Science Board reveals that per student funding for public research universities has gone down immensely since 2001. Between the years of 1992 and 2001, funding had risen to a peak. At that time, UNH’s state funding had risen 16 percent, but as the decade progressed, funding for public universities plummeted.
Between the years of 2002 and 2010, funding for universities across the country went down as much as 48 percent, as was the case in Colorado. As the only public research university in New Hampshire, UNH saw a 10 percent decline in per student state funding. Naturally, this change impacted the university, which conducts research in numerous areas including agriculture and biosciences, marine and ocean sciences, business and technology, space, engineering and physical sciences, sustainability and the environment, as well as health and society.
UNH’s concentration on research is beneficial to the local community, as well as to UNH’s faculty and student body. The cut in finances has been detrimental to the university as a whole, and according to Vice President of Student and Academic Service Mark Rubinstein, the problem is even worse than it sounds.
In its survey, the National Science Board pinpointed reduction in state funding to the last decade. Although funding was dwindling in 2010, Rubinstein declared that the problem has gotten drastically worse in the last school year. He said that just this year, UNH has undergone a 48 percent cut, and stated that this is “only part of the story.”
Rubinstein also revealed that New Hampshire was “49th among the 50 states (ahead of only Vermont) in all but the final year (2010, when Rhode Island also fell below New Hampshire) in the actual per student dollar value of state support.” This shows that New Hampshire was never ahead of the game as far as funding goes.
“In 2010, the report places UNH’s per student support from New Hampshire at approximately $4,300 when the median appears to have been greater than $7,500. This represents a prolonged period of chronic underfunding — relative to other states — even before the most recent reduction.“
Even with these negative developments, enrollment in the university is still rising. With funds being cut, the numbers simply do not add up. In the 2005-2006 school year, 13,544 students were enrolled at UNH. This year, 14,596 students are enrolled. These numbers have risen as years have gone by, and will likely continue to rise.
So what does this mean for students and faculty members? Ultimately, less state funding results in higher tuition paid by students. For the 2000-2001 school year, tuition for UNH students stood at $7,395 for in-state students, and $16,465 for out-of-state students. This year, New Hampshire residents pay $16,422 in tuition fees, while students coming from other states pay a colossal $28,882. These numbers do not include housing costs or other academic fees, but show that tuition has nearly doubled in the last decade.
Rubinstein conceded that peaking tuition is a direct result of the lack of state funding.
“Unfortunately, one aspect of this [drop in funding] has been to ask students to incur a larger share of the cost of their education through tuition and this is reflected in the relatively high tuition that we ask students to pay,” Rubinstein said.
The lack of funding has not only created struggles at UNH, but has created a gap between public and private universities. Because private research universities do not rely on state funding, they have not experienced the academic loss that public research universities have gone through due to decreased funds.
Public universities are a good option for students that cannot afford the demanding tuition that a private school requires they pay, and if funding continues to go down at UNH and other public universities, it will make it increasingly difficult for the average student to obtain a higher education without accumulating debt. This may result in fewer middle-class students attending college — especially if they cannot afford to go to an expensive private school.
While the lack of funds has certainly set up a roadblock in the way of educators, UNH administrators and faculty have developed ways to successfully educate students on a budget.
“Our faculty have been extremely effective in pursuing external grants that create opportunities that enhance the educational experience and have been very willing to engage undergraduate students in research in ways that do not always occur in research universities,” Rubinstein said.
With the numbers going down, it doesn’t look like UNH students should look forward to lower tuition costs anytime soon, and it looks like there are still quite a few challenges to face regarding this issue.