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June 28. 2013 11:51AM

USNH board approves tuition freeze for two years after budget boosts state subsidy $53M

CONCORD – University System of New Hampshire students and their parents will not have to dig a little deeper for the next two years to pay tuition bills.

The system's board of trustees voted unanimously Friday to freeze tuition at current levels, which vary from campus to campus, after lawmakers agreed to boost state aid that was cut in half two years ago.

The tuition freeze is the first in 25 years. The past two years, in-state tuition rose 9 and 6 percent due to the cut in state aid.

"I applaud the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees for taking this important step to make higher education more affordable for our families and students," said Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is a member of the board as governor. "I know that the drastic cuts made in the last budget to our universities have made it more difficult to build a highly skilled workforce and to keep New Hampshire's promising young people here in our state. To its credit, USNH has worked to do more with less and to innovate in the way they operate and educate our students. But ever increasing in-state tuition rates hurt our competitiveness and undermine our economic future."

Under the 2014-2015 budget, which Hassan signed Friday, the University System of New Hampshire will receive $153 million over the biennium. Hassan had proposed the system receive $165 million, but lawmakers reduced her request. For the current biennium that ends June 30, the university system received about $100 million.

"We are grateful for Gov. Maggie Hassan's early and strong support for public higher education in the Granite State," said Richard Galway, chair of the USNH board of trustees. "Her commitment and leadership in restoring a majority of the previous legislature's budget cuts to public higher education never wavered. We would also like to thank both the House and Senate for their support of moving towards full restoration of the USNH budget. In a difficult budget year, we appreciate their efforts to prioritize higher education funding to benefit students, families, and the long-term economic health of our state. There is more work to be done but this major step towards restoration is in the right direction."

Todd Leach, recently named chancellor of the university system and president of Granite State College, said every dollar of the additional state aid will go to New Hampshire students and families.

"We look forward to partnering with our elected officials to attract New Hampshire's most able students and prepare them for the state's workforce," Leach said.

Along with the in-state tuition freeze, the restored state money will provide additional scholarships for the state's neediest and highest-achieving students. The tuition freeze does not impact fees or room and board.

"With the budget process now complete and funds for the university system substantially restored, freezing tuition for over 22,000 New Hampshire students will make a real difference for families and help us build a stronger workforce that will attract innovative companies," said Hassan. "Making higher education more affordable and more accessible for all of our people is a priority of the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the people of New Hampshire, and I thank USNH for following through on their commitment to our students and families."

On Thursday the Board of Trustees of the New Hampshire Community College System voted to freeze tuition across their system for the next two years.

grayno@unionleader.com
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