Testimony by Sara Jayne Steen before the Governor’s FY2014-15 Operating Budget Hearing

November 27th, 2012 by Tim

Governor’s FY2014-15 Operating Budget Hearing

26 November 2012

Testimony by Sara Jayne Steen

President of Plymouth State University


Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the University System’s pledge and our commitment to New Hampshire, its economy, and its families.

Plymouth State University is a comprehensive university, focused on first-rate education informed by vibrant research and creativity and characterized by engagement with the people, schools, and businesses of New Hampshire.  Recently PSU has earned state and national recognition for academic innovation, environmental sustainability, international opportunities, community engagement, and economic partnership.  PSU serves over 7300 students, and thousands of others in New Hampshire attend campus workshops and arts and cultural events or are impacted by programs such as TIGER, which partners with schools on issues such as how to combat bullying and has been viewed by 300,000 schoolchildren.  Last year, PSU awarded 1400 degrees through the doctorate, and half of our alumni, now in the tens of thousands, stay in New Hampshire and contribute to the state’s vitality.

Like our sister institutions, PSU is cost-effective, operating approximately 15% more efficiently than our peers and delivering academic excellence.  PSU is committed to students; even as we coped with the difficult reduction in appropriation, we increased financial aid and employees enhanced their scholarship giving.  PSU collaborates to increase access for citizens, with 80 transfer agreements with the community colleges and a North Country Teacher Certification Program offered jointly with White Mountains Community College whereby students can complete a 4-year degree on the Berlin campus with the first two years delivered by WMCC and the last two by PSU.

PSU also enhances access through online learning.  This year, in addition to the high-quality graduate degrees offered online, four undergraduate programs are available: business administration, communications and media studies, criminal justice, and nursing (a degree completion for associate degree registered nurses).  And PSU is expanding programs in critical fields for the state, such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (or STEM) fields; has added a strong nursing degree; and is increasing investments in projects such as the Center for Active Living, Learning and Wellness, which will expand the workforce in wellness and allied health sciences.

To drive economic development, PSU is launching with the Grafton County Economic Development Council a business incubator and accelerator, the Enterprise Center at Plymouth.  It will draw on faculty and students from PSU’s nationally recognized College of Business Administration and offer physical and virtual services so that new and existing New Hampshire businesses thrive.  Students provide hundreds of thousands of hours each year on environmental research or arts projects or consulting with businesses and non-profits, serving New Hampshire as students engage in hands-on learning and prepare for successful careers. Although those contributions are not part of the University System’s economic impact report, they are meaningful.  The list goes on.

President Huddleston and I speak briefly today for us all:  President Kahn of Keene State College and President Leach of Granite State College have similar stories of transforming students’ lives, of Keene State’s partnerships for advanced manufacturing or Granite State’s new co-location with Nashua Community College.

For those of us in the University System, student successes have faces and names: Alexandra, Matthew, Samantha, or Connor.  Education is personal, one student at a time, and we know the many hours that New Hampshire students work beyond their classes, the debt they assume, and the support and sacrifices of their families.  Some students may not continue in school.  Some will leave the state to study, and they may not return.  New Hampshire wants to attract and create businesses, and a healthy economy requires excellent, affordable education.  We ask that you help us to help students.

The University System brings much more to New Hampshire’s economy than it did a decade ago and serves many more students.  Education is the backbone of the economy, and STEM and health programs are more expensive than ever. Our proposal that our appropriation be restored in exchange for freezing tuition has achieved broad popular support.  According to a recent Granite State poll, 71% of New Hampshire adults support restoring the appropriation along the lines we have described.  In addition, we have received specific endorsements from business leaders around the state who believe that an investment in public higher education is essential to the future of the New Hampshire economy and its workforce.  Some of them have spoken up; others will be doing so. More than 1,400 of our New Hampshire alumni, parents, friends, and students have told us they will be active in their own communities in support of this initiative. That number is growing.

We hope that you will support us in this initiative. We look forward to reaffirming our historic partnership with the State of New Hampshire in service to the well being of its citizens.