Plymouth State Advocate action alert

May 12th, 2003 by Adam

On April 17 the NH House of Representatives considered three different versions of the state’s operating budget, referred to as HB 1. The “A” and “C” versions both included significant cuts to the USNH budget of 5 percent in FY 2004, and 2 percent in FY 2005. The “B” version “flat funded” USNH by adding $5.6 million to the budget, and was supported by UNH and the University System.

Regrettably, the “C” version of the budget passed in the House. It has now moved to the Senate for consideration. This version of HB 1, as currently written, would result in substantial cuts for the University System of New Hampshire. It could impact tuition. It could impact programs and services.

Plymouth would benefit significantly from the added $5.6 million funding included in the “B” version of the budget. As the Senate Finance Committee reviews the budget and brings HB 1 to the full Senate for a vote, we need your help. Please call your State Representatives and State Senator today to express your support of UNH and the University System of New Hampshire’s funding request.

Background information on the budget request case statement

The facts behind the USNH proposal

For nearly a year, the Trustees of the University System (USNH) worked to craft a FY 04/05 biennial operating budget request that truly reflected essential needs while clearly recognized the fiscal constraints facing the Governor and General Court. In brief, that budget requested a 6.4 percent increase for FY 04 and a 6.2 percent increase for FY 05. With the passage in late April of the House Budget, the University System acknowledges that its original request will not be funded.

With its budget request now before the Senate, the University System respectfully proposes that it receive targeted funding for FY 04 at the current FY 03 level, and, for FY 05, a 3 percent increase of the FY 04 level.

The difference between the Governor/House budget and our reduced, targeted request is:

* an additional $4.2 million in FY 04

* an additional $4.3 million in FY 05

These are the amounts we are seeking to have added to the current budget.

The risks of the proposed budget cuts

1. If USNH must accommodate the 5% reduction in State Appropriation contained in the House Budget, it will need to (1) reduce programs and services, and (2) increase tuition and fees for resident and non-resident students – though our analysis indicates non-resident tuition cannot rise more than 6.5% without seriously affecting non-resident enrollment. Non-resident tuition revenue is the de facto subsidy that has helped keep resident student tuition at reasonable levels.

2. The net result of an Operating Budget reduction would risk the “pricing-out-of-the-market” of that segment of the New Hampshire population for which a public college or university education is their primary path to economic stability and improvement.

3. If tuition rises in response to the House Budget Plan, we’ll be unable to serve well that very segment of New Hampshire citizenry that most depends upon higher education to improve their prospects.

Key benefits to the state

1. New Hampshire’s public colleges and university are the primary points of entry for first generation college students – a critical element for long term prosperity in an economy increasing based on access to highly educated workers. Despite the fact that New Hampshire has the 6th highest per capita personal income in the nation, approximately 30% of the students at USNH institutions are from first generation college-going families, many of modest financial means, and therefore less able to deal with the high price of tuition and total college costs.

2. USNH is the leading producer of graduates needed for critical fields in New Hampshire’s workforce such as teaching, engineering, information technology, and natural and biological sciences. For example, our institutions currently confer almost 70% of the degrees granted to both new teachers and teachers advancing their careers and building their profession.

Is it really possible to just cut the “fat?”

1. The University System has worked hard to become an efficient provider of high quality services. While we must price our services high, our operating costs are very low. USNH institutions have the second highest average tuition in the United States (Vermont is first). Why? Because the State of New Hampshire provides the smallest per capita appropriation to public higher education of any state in the USA.

2. The difference in the price of tuition is not the result of inflated institutional operating costs or a lack of USNH commitment to provide financial aid. a. Compared with its peer institutions, UNH’s per student operating costs are 30% lower, and at PSC and KSC their peer student operating costs are 8% to 10% lower than their peer institutions.

b. Institutional financial aid contributions as a percentage of tuition and fees at UNH is 25% while at its peers the percentage is only 14%. At PSC and KSC institutional financial aid contributions as a percentage of tuition and fees is 13% while at their peers the percentage is only 8%.

Our request, and our guarantee.

The members of the University System of New Hampshire thus seeks targeted funding for FY 04/05 specifically to preserve the promise of higher education for these New Hampshire citizens.

With this level of funding, USNH would guarantee the following:

1. To increase resident tuition at the lowest reasonable percentage, other revenues and prudent expenses taken into account; and

2. To meet all financial need (as defined by the federal government) for all New Hampshire students through aid packages that include grants, loans and work.

Level-funding for FY 04 and +3% increase for FY 05 would allow the University System to maintain its commitment to serve all qualified citizens of New Hampshire, but especially, during this economic downturn, first-generation and lower-income students, and students pursuing careers critical to the long-term economic prosperity of our State.