Trustees ask state to restore funding
USNH offers to freeze tuition
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
When New Hampshire legislatures slashed funding last year due to the poor economic climate, the university felt the state tightening its belt through a 48 percent reduction in funding. The university scrambled to slash spending through hiring freezes, offering early retirement incentives, cutting $10 million in benefits to staff, and letting non-faculty personnel go. As a final resort, the university began increasing student tuition.
At a meeting in Portsmouth on Tuesday, the University of New Hampshire Board of Trustees unanimously proposed to freeze in-state tuition for the next two years, only if the state restores funding to its previous levels.
If approved by the legislature, $100 million would be infused back into higher education over the next two years, restoring the public university to 2010 levels.
“At UNH, we recognize that these are tough economic times, but we also know how essential it is to provide world-class education to our students,” Mark Huddleston, president of UNH, said in an email sent to the student body. The email asked members of the community to stand behind the pledge.
UNH trustees said although the university was able to absorb the deep cuts efficiently, the funding is vital to providing an affordable education for New Hampshire residents and keeping the workforce strong.
The pledge must be submitted to the governor’s office by Sept. 21, where legislators will evaluate the budget and examine the requests feasibility.
“In general, I am not big on signing pledges,” said Nancy Stiles, a New Hampshire state senator. “But I am in favor of this one and will advocate for restoring the budget to higher education. I know how important it is to have an educated workforce for the state in New Hampshire, and investing in that is critical for our future.”
According to Huddleston, a recently released economic impact study showed that UNH contributes $1.4 billion to the state’s economy each year through workforce development, direct expenditures and employment.
“That’s an extraordinary return on the state’s investment of less than $40 million,” Huddleston said in the school-wide email.
Even though the school is adding large sums of money to the state’s economy, New Hampshire continues to have one of the lowest rates in per capita funding. Currently, the state’s funding for higher education is $63 per capita, well below New England’s $188 average.
USNH chancellors are optimistic that they will argue a strong case for the restoration of funding, although the decision is dependent on a number of variant factors.
Stiles noted that legislators will have to review the state’s revenue and examine certain factors of the economy before making a decision on the pledge.
“We will have to look at the revenue coming in and certain factors of the economy,” she said. “For example, we will have to see if we are continuing to reduce unemployment rates and examine if people are getting back to work.”
This is only one factor that could determine the fate of the pledge to restore funding.
“We ended the budget with a surplus,” Stiles said. “In August, the numbers were, unfortunately, down again. So, we are not on solid ground yet, but we are optimistic about the future of the state.”
For the state’s four public colleges and universities, the coming weeks will be a waiting game to see if funding will be restored after historically large financial cuts. In the meantime, the higher education institutes will work together to spread the word across the Granite State.
“If you want to keep UNH strong and help make UNH as affordable as possible, I ask you to join me in conversation with our elected officials,” Huddleston said. “I know that every time tuition goes up, it hurts New Hampshire families and makes their children’s futures less secure.”