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Another View - Mark Huddleston: UNH committed to online courses, affordable education

February 27. 2014 10:10PM

In reading your Feb. 20 editorial about my State of the University address, I was heartened to see that the Union Leader shares my passion for making a high quality UNH education more affordable and accessible for New Hampshire students and their families. I was surprised, however, that your analysis misread some key points in my remarks, particularly in regards to our ongoing commitment to integrating online education.

In the nation’s intensely competitive field of more than 4,000 higher education institutions, UNH is clear about its role: We are a student centered, research intensive, highly engaged, residential public university. Rightfully so, only a small portion of institutions claim this role: no others in New Hampshire and a handful in New England.

UNH is filled with brilliant researchers and students from all over the world studying a range of disciplines, from complex ocean engineering and coastal mapping challenges to the radioactive microbursts above the Earth’s atmosphere that disrupt global telecommunications. What is particularly unique about UNH are the many opportunities undergraduates have to pursue this work alongside some of the world’s top researchers.

However, while we are enjoying great success, we also know that the field of higher education is changing, and changing quickly. As my speech stressed, the single greatest threat to UNH’s future would be a failure to adapt to this radically altered environment.

Today, we are not only adapting, but in many respects are leading the way. Our eUNH online learning options have grown considerably, with more than 350 online courses last year. These classes include those that can be taken entirely online as well as hybrids, which bring online students to campus for important hands-on learning experiences. Recently, we launched an online master of social work (MSW) degree program, the first online MSW option in the state. The majority of our courses during the recent January term were also online. These are great options for students to gain UNH-quality education and earn credits, often at lower cost.

At the same time we are strengthening eUNH, however, we are also transforming the way we deliver a world-class residential education and hands-on research that supports New Hampshire’s economy, communities and quality of life. Our challenge lies in how to best integrate our existing facilities and resources with new technologies in ways that improve teaching, learning and research — and, let me stress, make UNH more affordable and accessible to students from all walks of life.

Our work to offer online learning options, develop research, build private philanthropy and create partnerships with New Hampshire businesses is vital to our mission to improve the quality of a UNH education while controlling costs for our students.

Thank you for sharing UNH’s commitment to delivering tremendous value to those we serve, and for keeping student affordability and access at the heart of your concerns for New Hampshire’s flagship public research university.

Mark Huddleston is president of the University of New Hampshire.

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