Editorial: Legislature must listen to USNH proposal
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
USNH Trustees voted unanimously on Thursday to propose a deal in which in-state tuition will freeze for the next two years if the state restores the massive funding cuts it made to the university system in 2011. It is a plea to the N.H. state legislature to prioritize higher education instead of marginalizing it. And it is a motion that we fully support.
The Granite State’s university system was already one of the lowest-funded systems in the nation before the 2011 budget cuts. Then, the state legislature slashed nearly 50 percent of USNH’s budget, a historic cut to higher education.
The university was forced to lay off hundreds of workers and institute a hiring freeze in order to absorb 80 percent of the cuts. Raising tuition made up for the final 20 percent.
UNH has done its best to remain affordable in tough economic times. But these budget cuts will force the university to invariably raise tuition, for both in-state and out-of-state students, in the near future.
That can be avoided if the state government recognizes that this university is an invaluable part of New Hampshire’s economy. UNH is not just an institution that leeches state funding and gives nothing in return.
As university President Mark Huddleston pointed out in an email to the UNH student body on Thursday, a recent study found that UNH contributes $1.4 billion to the state’s economy. But it only receives $40 million in return in state funding.
It may seem unlikely that the state legislature will even consider the trustees’ proposal. After all, the statehouse is still dominated by Republicans who supported these budget cuts in the first place. But UNH must do its part to make them listen.
In his email to the student body, President Huddleston urged students to “join [him] in conversation with our elected officials.” This is perhaps the most vital part of USNH’s proposal. It means nothing if the state legislature does not hear from the people these budget cuts affect the most: the students.
We urge the student body to contact state representatives. Contact our state senators. Contact New Hampshire’s gubernatorial candidates, Ovide Lamontagne and Maggie Hassan. Let them know that a strong university helps create a strong state. And the only way that it can continue to do so is if it remains affordable.