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Friday, October 12, 2012

UNH president hopes new campaign will convince lawmakers to restore higher ed cuts

DURHAM – University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston is on a mission to convince the Legislature to restore historic cuts to higher education.

During his state of the university address Thursday, Huddleston announced a campaign called “UNH Works for New Hampshire,” one of UNH’s new campaigns to persuade lawmakers to restore support for public colleges and universities. Huddleston reiterated a pledge made during the University System of New Hampshire’s board of trustees meeting last month. ...

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DURHAM – University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston is on a mission to convince the Legislature to restore historic cuts to higher education.

During his state of the university address Thursday, Huddleston announced a campaign called “UNH Works for New Hampshire,” one of UNH’s new campaigns to persuade lawmakers to restore support for public colleges and universities. Huddleston reiterated a pledge made during the University System of New Hampshire’s board of trustees meeting last month.

“If the Legislature restores the base funding of $100 million to the university system, we pledge to freeze in-state tuition for the next biennium,” Huddleston said to the crowd.

In 2011, the Legislature cut public funding for the system by nearly 50 percent, which Huddleston said Thursday was “the deepest percentage cut to public higher education in the country ever.”

For out-of-state students, the cost of attendance at UNH is $38,646 this year. That “sticker price” includes tuition, fees, and room and board costs. Twenty years ago, that figure was $15,872 – meaning that costs for out-of-state students have jumped 143 percent since 1992, while median income for American households has grown just 4.5 percent in the same time period, according to census data.

The issue of cost has been even tougher on state residents. Median income for New Hampshire families is up 23 percent in 20 years, but the cost at UNH for in-state students has more than tripled since then. This year, in-state students are paying $26,186.

Huddleston, who earned $333,658 in 2011, spoke Thursday of seven markers of progress within the broad “UNH 2020” campaign. He said the university is starting to “bend the cost curve, making UNH more affordable.”

“By earning college credits in high school, during January term and summer session, and online through eUNH, more traditional and nontraditional students can come to UNH, graduate on time and start their careers with smaller student loans,” Huddleston said.

Gubernatorial candidates Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, and Ovide Lamontagne, a Republican, have both said they want to restore the cuts to funding, but differ on what to do with that money.

Lamontagne said he would like to see the restored funding be targeted for scholarship aid.

While making the push to restore funding, Huddleston also called for a restructuring of the governance within the university system. He said it would work to create greater autonomy while lessening central control, enabling them to create programs and make decisions related to the university in an innovative matter.

Dylan Palmer, UNH student body president, was in attendance at the president’s speech and said he thinks the campaigns are “brilliant.”

UNH student body Vice President Alexandra Eicheri also was present at the speech.

“I liked the way that he walked through the seven markers of advancement,” Eicheri said. “I see them around campus, and the fact that I can see them makes us on the same level; that President Huddleston is really about to connect with us.”

The UNH study body representatives worked with the UNH Works Resolution for Higher Education that will be sent to the state Legislature.

Not all UNH students think UNH Works will fix the entire situation.

“I think the thing is, it depends on the Legislature. That really highlights the importance of this election,” said Emma Huntoon, a senior at UNH.