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Saturday, January 19, 2013

University System of NH makes case for restoring state funding

CONCORD – University System of New Hampshire administrators made a case to House budget writers Thursday for doubling state aid to education in exchange for freeze tuition for the next two years.

The near-$100 million cut in state aid in the current, two-year budget reduced state subsidy per New Hampshire student down to $575 from $3,254 in 2010. ...

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CONCORD – University System of New Hampshire administrators made a case to House budget writers Thursday for doubling state aid to education in exchange for freeze tuition for the next two years.

The near-$100 million cut in state aid in the current, two-year budget reduced state subsidy per New Hampshire student down to $575 from $3,254 in 2010.

“There is no better depiction of a fiscal cliff than we experienced in the last biennium,” System Chancellor Ed MacKay said in testimony to the House Finance Committee.

USNH administrators said they made many efficiencies to rein in expenses and actually reduced spending by two percent last year.

“We are working very hard to bend the cost curve,” said Todd Leach, president of Granite State College who will become interim chancellor when MacKay retires in March.

MacKay also noted that 90 percent of the system’s $911 million in revenue comes from non-state taxpayer sources The biggest contributors are tuition, 40 percent, grants and contracts, 21 percent and sales of auxiliary services, 21 percent.

Mark Huddleston, president of the University of New Hampshire at Durham, pointed out that New Hampshire is by far the lowest in the nation in financial support at $63 per capita.

The national average is $233 and the New England average is $188.

“As nice as it would be to move out of last place in America in public funding for higher education, I know that isn’t realistic, at least across this biennium,” Huddleston began. “But I do have a goal that is both realistic and critical. I want to change the tenor of the conversation we have with one another. I want to end the sniping and the adversarial relationship.”

State Rep. Neil Kurk, R-Weare, urged college officials to consider tying any increase in spending to the rate of inflation and dedicating any state aid increase to programs that would most benefit the economy and future job market.

Gov. Maggie Hassan has called for increasing state aid to higher education but has not confirmed that she would fully replace the cut contained in the current budget with her proposed spending plan she will present to lawmakers next month.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).