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Huddleston reflected on accomplishments, challenges

State of the University Address held Tuesday

Managing Editor

Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 23:02

State of the University Address

Cameron Johnson


 

In the State of the University address held Tuesday afternoon in the Granite State Room, UNH President Mark Huddleston highlighted the university’s accomplishments in 2013, which occurred despite economic challenges and lack of state support. He also presented several new plans and initiatives for 2014 and the near future.

These projects include an updated UNH 2020 plan as well as an expansion in summer and January term programs. Huddleston also focused on UNH’s values and how its mission must guide its priorities in the future.

In addition, Huddleston spoke about UNH’s notorious lack of state support, a category in which New Hampshire ranks dead last in the nation.

“Seriously, even if we saw a tripling in state support – and I’m not holding my breath for that – New Hampshire would still be 50th out of the 50 states,” Huddleston said.

According to data presented by Huddleston, state support has dropped 28.1 percent throughout the last 12 years. The university president did, however, mention the UNH Works for New Hampshire initiative, coordinated by Mica Stark, which successfully pressed Governor Maggie Hassan and state leaders to restore most of the budget that had been cut in 2011 in the wake of a national economic recession.

Huddleston pointed to his participation in a February 2013 White House forum where he announced three efforts on UNH’s part to promote college opportunity and accessibility: 50 $5,000 scholarships for New Hampshire community college students to enter UNH, an increase in opportunity for low-income students to participate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Connect, and offers of scholarships to academically- outstanding high school students by Project SMART.

Following the address, Huddleston spoke with media members about ways in which the university can help make higher education more affordable and accessible to students.

“That is the single biggest question, not just for UNH, but for all of higher education,” Huddleston said. “I can’t stand here and tell you I know the answer… I can tell you we are trying to do what we can and that is keeping the cost side of the equation as low as possible. [We are] trying to raise as much private support as possible and thereby endow scholarships and make it less expensive for kids to come to school.

“[Also], by making the case as passionately and as often as I know to our friends in the state that higher education is not simply a private good from which you and I alone benefit, but everybody benefits when you become educated and therefore the whole state has got a stake in whether we succeed or not.”

While facing the challenges of ever- increasing living and college tuition costs for families, as well as the continued decline in state support and a falling rate in graduating high school students, Huddleston indicated two things the university should avoid.

“The first thing we should not do is yield to pressures to commodify higher education, turn students into customers and drive relentlessly to lower unit costs of production,” Huddleston said. “Pressures to do this are real.

“As I regularly tell our friends in the state legislature and beyond when they ask why UNH can’t be more like certain low-cost providers, that’s a model I’ll embrace the day I see them drive across a suspension bridge built by an engineer with a degree from Online University of America.”

The second thing Huddleston said to avoid is a resistance to change. He called on the leaders of the university to do what is right not just for the present, but also for future generations of students. Huddleston said the university must focus on its mission, calling it the “fixed point” as the institution navigates forward. 

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