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Another View -- Mark Huddleston: Yes, declining state support for UNH drives up tuition

Special to the Union Leader

April 04. 2013 7:11PM

Upon first reading the editorial regarding University of New Hampshire's budget in the April 1 issue of the Union Leader, I thought it was an April Fool's joke. The paper takes issue with my assertion that dwindling state appropriations have increased tuition prices for families. Yet, from fiscal year 2000 to fiscal year 2012, state support for New Hampshire's four-year public colleges and universities declined 28.1 percent -- even while our enrollments grew 22.6 percent. And you are surprised that tuition went up?

My point is not that our colleges and universities have no obligation to control costs. My point is that, while we can and do control costs, legislative funding decisions drive the prices New Hampshire families pay.

If the recent 49 percent budget cut from the state had been borne in its entirety by in-state students, each one would have faced an increase of $4,650. But we knew that approach would be wrong. Instead, we instituted difficult cost-saving measures, including layoffs, early retirement incentives, and a hiring freeze, to minimize the impact of the lost state funding on our students and the quality of education they receive. In all, we absorbed 80 percent of the state appropriation loss through budget savings, and in-state students paid an extra $650.

Despite being last in the nation in per capita funding for public higher education, when compared to other New England land-grant universities and university systems we have the lowest level of administrative overhead as a percent of total operating expenses. In higher education, one of the best measures of efficiency is cost per credit hour. USNH institutions' cost per credit hour is 70 percent of the average of our peer institutions.

At the end of the day, we all want what is best for the residents of the Granite State. Everyone benefits from an affordable system of higher education that keeps our best and brightest in the Granite State and provides the skilled work force our businesses so desperately need. I hope every resident, including the Union Leader editors, will partner with me and my University System of New Hampshire colleagues to celebrate our collective successes and partner with us to ensure the future success of our state.

Mark Huddleston is president of the University of New Hampshire.

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