THE RECENT PASSAGE of the 2014-15 state budget by the New Hampshire Legislature marks a promising step forward. With the restoration of $53 million in funding to the University System of New Hampshire over the next biennium, the New Hampshire House and Senate have demonstrated a renewed commitment to higher education in New Hampshire. Given this commitment, we — the student leadership of the four USNH institutions — wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Legislature, the governor and the citizens of New Hampshire who made it all happen.
For those who may question the funding increase or the implications that it will have on USNH students, let us first be clear that this is not a hand out, nor have we ever even considered asking for one. Students at USNH institutions are proud to emulate the efficient and hard-working ethic characteristic of New Hampshire, but the fact of the matter is that it had come to a point where the cuts were being made into the bone and muscle rather than the fat.
Even with more than half of our peers working jobs (often 40+ hours a week) in addition to pursuing their studies, we still have students struggling financially, not because they are not incredibly hard-working, but because they were faced with an unprecedented lack of support. Continuation of the status quo would’ve scared off businesses, prospective students (and, consequently, talent) and hurt the economy in the process. With the recent vote, the Legislature has reversed this trend, placing us on the path towards a healthy economy and workforce.
As a result of this action — and as requested by Gov. Hassan — USNH has reciprocated the state’s gesture by implementing a two-year tuition freeze for in-state students. Given the costs of higher education, the positive effects of this action on us and our peers are profound. It will have widespread implications on a personal, familial and economic level. Not only will it afford us a much-needed alleviation of financial burden, but every cent of savings will shorten the time and amount we are in debt. And thanks to compounded interest, what would seem to be only a marginal savings in nominal terms will become thousands of dollars in savings in the long term.
As a result, New Hampshire students will be able to contribute earlier and more fully to the state’s economy, and given the fact that parents often need to help get their students through college, these benefits will also extend to parents’ contributions to the economy as well. In these difficult times, mere dollars can determine if a student can afford a college education or not, so you can be confident that a figure like $53 million will make a resounding positive impact on students.
Every one of us has benefited immensely from one of our state’s incredible institutions, and the same goes for our peers. Because of the University of New Hampshire, Keene State College, Granite State College and Plymouth State University, many of us have been able to gain the skills necessary to succeed in life and give back to the state, or at least get on the path to doing so. Thanks to the Legislature, our best-in-class state institutions can continue to provide skills to students and subsequently, the state economy.
Thanks to the requested support, we and our fellow students — along with the beloved institutions we attend — will finally be able to catch our collective breathes and continue our pattern of improvement and efficiency. We are proud to be part of the USNH system, and even more proud to be part of our incredible state of New Hampshire. We are immensely grateful that our fellow citizens, governor and legislators have decided to invest as much pride and faith in us as we have in them, and we are hopeful that all involved shareholders — from the state government to its citizens — can continue to find common ground and understanding in the improvement of higher education in New Hampshire.
Bryan Merrill, from Londonderry, is a junior at the University of New Hampshire and is the study body president.
Ryan Patten, from Wolfeboro, is a senior at Plymouth State University and is the Student Senate speaker.
Tyler King, from Lebanon, is a senior at Keene State College and is the senior class representative and chair of the Student Assembly.
Kim Hallet, from Rochester, is a senior at Granite State College and was a student trustee on the USNH Board of Trustees during the budgetary process, in addition to being the GSC student representative to the board.