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June 29. 2013 11:14PM

University board freezes tuition for next two years

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 because of 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 as governor is a member of the board. "I know that the drastic cuts made in the last budget to our universities have made it more difficult to build a highly skilled work force and to keep New Hampshire's promising young people here in our state."

On Thursday, the board of trustees of the New Hampshire Community College System voted to freeze tuition across that system for the next two years.

Under the 2014-15 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, which 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, chairman of the USNH board. "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."

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 affect fees or room and board.

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 work force," Leach said.

Said Hassan: "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 work force that will attract innovative companies."

Leach's appointment

The USNH board of trustees voted unanimously to name Leach chancellor at its quarterly business meeting on Friday. Leach has been serving as interim chancellor since March 2, when former Chancellor Ed MacKay retired.

"Having watched Dr. Leach serve as interim chancellor, the board became convinced he was the best choice to lead the University System of New Hampshire,'' said Galway. "Dr. Leach demonstrated an incredible vision and work ethic. He's an innovator and will continue the great work being done for our state at the university system."

In addition to being president of Granite State College, Leach serves on the USNH board of trustees and is one of new Hampshire's commissioners of higher education. He is also a member of the boards of the New Hampshire College and University Council and the New Hampshire Forum on the Future. He has addressed many national and international conferences regarding the subjects of distance learning and professional education.

"Todd Leach brings to the chancellorship a keen understanding of education in the 21st century and the importance of a relevant education to a strong economy. As president of Granite State College, he has led it to stunning growth and national rankings. As interim chancellor of the entire university system, he has won respect from state leaders for his informed and personal approach on key issues facing USNH. We are fortunate that he will now continue that leadership as the full-time chancellor of the most important state asset," said Fred Kocher, president off New Hampshire's High Technology Council.

Under Leach's leadership, Granite State College has achieved the highest enrollment levels in its 40-year history and in 2013 celebrated its largest graduating class. He also pioneered the development of the college's first-ever master's level programming degree and created the Office of Graduate Studies. Most recently, U.S. News & World Report ranked Granite State College No. 27 in the nation for its online bachelor's programs.

Leach holds a Ph.D. from Northeastern University and an MBA from Bentley University, and he has more than two decades of experience as an academic leader and faculty member. He earned an associate's degree at Mass. Bay Community College and a bachelor's degree from Worcester State College. The institutions each honored him, in 2011 and 2012, respectively, with Distinguished Alumni Awards.

"The University System of New Hampshire must be an integral part of the solution to our emerging work force challenges. I am honored to serve as chancellor during the significant time of change and look forward to working with the board, the presidents, policymakers, staff, business leaders and New Hampshire citizens to develop new partnerships amid the work force and college access challenges we face," Leach said.

grayno@unionleader.com


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