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Column: Legislators must understand importance of UNH

To the editor:

In the last legislative session, public funding for in-state students at New Hampshire colleges and universities suffered the largest cut in our state’s history. The University of New Hampshire’s appropriation alone was reduced to 6 percent of their operating budget, making public funding for higher education by the state the lowest in the nation in per capita funding for public higher education.

After the recent budget cuts, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) has instituted new cost saving measures, including layoffs, early retirement incentives and a hiring freeze, to minimize the impact of the lost funding on the quality of education offered. According to the records, 80 percent of the loss was absorbed through these administrate savings. The other 20 percent of the loss was absorbed by raising in-state tuition.

A recent economic impact study depicts UNH contributing $1.4 billion to the state’s economy each year through workforce development, direct expenditures and employment. That’s an extraordinary return on the state’s investment of less than $40 million. Also, UNH promotes commercialization of intellectual property and supports entrepreneurial activity in the state.

A proposal by the board of trustees asks the lawmakers to restore the 2011 budget cut of 49 percent in exchange for UNH providing more financial aid and freezing tuition for New Hampshire students for two years. This proposal is supported by 71% of New Hampshire adults, according to a UNH survey center poll.

It is incumbent that New Hampshire’s elected officials understand the need to prioritize funding for UNH and public higher education to defray student expenditures and help promote further economic expansion in the state.

Ultimately, the success of higher education requires a solid partnership with students, families, businesses, citizens, university system, and the state’s elected officials.

William Chevalier

MBA, UNH class of 1980

Peterborough

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