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Huddleston projects upcoming budget deficit to reach $21 million

Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, October 6, 2011

Updated: Thursday, October 6, 2011 23:10

huddleston

 

In a letter posted to the Campus Journal website on Sept. 28, UNH President Mark Huddleston announced a projected $21 million budget deficit in the coming years.

"The budget news was sobering," President Huddleston wrote. "Even after the savings made possible by our short-term measures, we anticipate a deficit of approximately $2.2 million in the current fiscal year and a growing structural deficit of $13 million and $21 million in the two years following."

The projections, which came out of a president's cabinet board meeting two weeks ago, are largely the result of a $32.5 million cut in state funding for the University. Passed in the State House of Representatives last spring, and put into effect over the summer, the cuts are the steepest cuts to state funding of higher education in the nation, and represent a 48 percent reduction from last year's state funding. Even before the cuts, New Hampshire had the lowest per-capita support of higher education in the country, according to the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.

President Huddleston also announced an open forum to discuss the budget and address questions about ongoing budget planning. The forum will be held Oct. 13 at 12:45 in the Granite State Room. Students are encouraged to attend.

Huddleston discussed potential solutions to the deficit, including revenue enhancement and budget savings measures.

Proposed revenue enhancement strategies include increasing enrollment in majors that have capacity for growth, expanding January term and online classes, and launching a major fundraising campaign.

According to Associate Vice President for Finance David Proulx, a tuition hike is inevitable, but will be the last option pursued to offset the deficit. "We are attacking the budget deficit by growing other revenue streams (fundraising, international students, research), by major expense reductions (potential elimination of certain programs and services) and lastly, tuition," Proulx said in an email. "We do not know how much tuition will go up at this time but have to submit a proposal to our board of trustees on December 12."

Some of the budget savings measures already taken into effect include scaling back staff and staff benefits, freezing salaries and hiring, and cutting expenses across the board. 

"The goal throughout the process has been to limit the impact of the budget cuts on students," said Mark Rubinstein, vice president of student and academic affairs. "Additional tuition will recoup approximately $4 million, but the balance is being absorbed by staff," he said. 

In his State of the University Address, delivered Sept. 15, President Huddleston announced the need to cut approximately 150 staff positions, but stressed that the majority of the cuts would come through the hiring freeze, a voluntary separation incentive, and attrition. There have been 12 layoffs so far. 

"We deeply regret having to take any of these actions, and understand the baleful impacts of the state budget reduction on your departments, on you, and on your families," Huddleston said.

Proulx stated that UNH is still campaigning for more state funding. "We have not given up on this despite the 48 percent (or $32.5 million) reduction in our funding this year," Proulx wrote in an email. "We still receive $35 million from the state, which we need.  We also need state support for the upkeep of our academic buildings, which have been the responsibility of the state."

When asked if New Hampshire students should be petitioning their representatives for more university funding, Proulx wrote: "I think that would be great. Legislators need to understand the difficult financial position our students are in - particularly our N.H. students. The state funding we receive allows us to be able to discount the price we charge for NH resident students. We want to continue the discount but it is difficult to do so without adequate state funding. This places N.H. students in a position of paying more than they have or were planning for and at some point begins to become unaffordable.  This is not what we want to see happen."

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