There is a proposal in the New Hampshire legislature that would cut state funding to the University System of New Hampshire by 45 percent.
The system’s schools consist of Plymouth State University, the University of New Hampshire, Granite State College, and Keene State College. Collectively, they receive $100 million from the state, which helps offset the cost of in-state tuition. The current proposal would reduce that amount by $45 million.
KSC currently, and for the past two years, receives $13.3 million from the state. With the current house proposal the school would lose $6 million, or 8 percent, of its $76 million operating budget.
Chief Officer for Government Relations Misha Charles said it is widely expected that the bill will pass a vote of the full house this week. As of press time Tuesday night no vote had been conducted.
Charles said she hopes the bill will not fare as well when it gets to the senate in early April.
“There is speculation that the senate will scrap [the house proposal] and start from scratch,” Charles said. “We’re hoping that the senate will approach this more level-headedly.”
Vice President for Financial Affairs Jay Kahn said it is important for people to realize the house version of the budget usually gets voted on towards the end of their time with the bill.
“The timing of this is consistent with every year in the past. The significance is the amount the legislature is deviating from the governor’s budget proposal,” Kahn said.
This year, the USNH worked to get their tuition rates approved earlier so that the schools can begin working on the financial aid packages and so that incoming students will have a better idea of what to expect.
The tuition for next year was approved at February’s USNH Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 17.
According to Student Trustee Hannah Hayes, the tuition was passed with the stipulation that any changes be brought back before the Student Assembly before they appear before the trustees for final approval.
Kahn said nothing is finalized until the state budget is approved.
“We tried to set the tuition rate earlier so students can have a better idea of what’s happening, but nothing is set in stone until we get the state’s budget,” Kahn said.
According to Kahn, the state appropriations are used to help subsidize the cost of attendance for in-state students who attend the college, and that it is unlikely it will change for out-of-state students.
Student Body President Donnie Clemmenson said he is working with Hayes to spread the word to students that these cuts will potentially cause a $1,000 to $1,600 rise in in-state tuition for next year.
Clemmenson said they are in the process of writing a formal letter to the senate from the student body which they are hoping to have signed by as many students as possible, and will have a draft at the Tuesday, April 5 Student Assembly meeting for the entire group to discuss.
“We are also advertising for and encouraging students to contact their local delegates and explain how the cut would effect them personally,” Clemmenson said.
At the Tuesday, March 29 Student Assembly meeting, Hayes, Clemmenson, and Vice President of Student Affairs Andy Robinson spoke to the assembly about the budget bill, with many members expressing they had not heard of the bill before.
Clemmenson said they are hoping the personal letters will get to the legislators as they are beginning to look in depth into the proposal in the senate and will have a more tangible impact than the major petition that will be circulating in the coming weeks.
Clemmenson also said while talking to Kahn, he was told the administration is open to any idea and they are “willing to try pretty much anything.”
There are several events being planned in response to the budget proposal so that everyone in the college community can remain informed and the administration can put everything in the open.
“We’re looking for full transparency, and we want as many opportunities for members of the college community to have input in the decisions,” Kahn said.
On Tuesday, April 5, President Helen Giles-Gee will hold a presentation and open forum with Kahn in the Mabel Brown Room where they will present what cuts may be needed.
“The president has done addresses during the budget process every year since the recession began in 2009. This year her focus is going to be trying to reconcile the spending with the revenue predictions,” Kahn said.
Hayes said she is also in contact with student leaders at other schools with the idea of a boycott of classes as well as having all students go to the State House in Concord to show their disapproval of this proposal.
According to Clemmenson, the college administration has known that a serious budget cut was coming since he began his role of Student Body President in the fall of 2009.
“We knew two years ago that there would be cuts, so there was a lot of preparation for this,” Clemmenson said.
Charles echoed the student body president’s thoughts, saying the administration has been looking into possibilities.
“We have a lot of good research backing up our decision,” she said.
Although any tuition raise will affect in-state students primarily, Charles and Robinson explained if something affects one student, it affects all students.
“We’re all in the same boat, it may hurt some people more than others but we are all in this together,” Charles said.
Robinson explained to the Student Assembly that with the tuition raise as a last resort, cuts will be made in other areas that will affect the full student body, but that President Giles-Gee intends on keeping the college accelerating at the pace it has been.
Ultimately college administrators hope the amount of funding the school system receives will be closer to the 5 percent reduction Governor John Lynch recommended.
Robinson said he hopes it will end with a reduction below 20 percent.
“If it goes beyond 20 percent, that’s when things get bleak,” Robinson said.
“This is one of the situations where folks will have to make some decisions, and they will not be at the ideal time,” Charles concluded.
Charles has worked with the college to develop kscadvocates.org, a website which Charles says will allow students to remain informed on issues like the state budget as they progress, so that everyone can discuss the changes intelligently.
Sean O’Donnell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The house budget proposal also includes an amendment, which would effect the collective bargaining rights for public employees. More on this particular piece of the budget will be included in next week’s issue of The Equinox.