NH House votes to eliminate USNH office and employees[singlepic id=1008 w=320 h=240 float=right]
House Bill 1692, the legislation that could eliminate the office of the chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire (USNH), can have an effect on Keene State College in a negative way.
According to USNH Chancellor Edward MacKay, if HB 1692 passed and the chancellor’s office was eliminated, then all power and duties of the chancellor would be transferred to the board of trustees of the system, who are volunteers.
In addition, the bill would shrink the university system office from 71 employees to 12.
“I think it’s stupid to cut down from 71 to 12 just to save money,” freshman Shannon Buckley said.
According to Chairman Edward Dupont, the board also called for changes in how it operates by delegating more authority to each campus president, and a review of the services provided by the USNH office.
The bill would also reduce the number of student trustees from two to one, and also reduce the number of alumni-elected trustees and those appointed by the governor.
According to Dupont, the chancellor serves as the chief executive officer of the USNH, which includes the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University, Granite State College, and Keene State College. The USNH Board determined the system office would provide essential “back office” functions such as benefits, payroll, treasury, audit, budget and legal support that reduce costs through efficiencies created by economies of scale and avoid duplicative services at each institution.
“If the office was eliminated or substantially reduced in size, down to 12 employees, and the functions distributed to the campuses, those economies of scale would be lost and the overall costs would be increased. Eventually to be paid by students through additional tuition,” Dupont stated in an email.
Sophomore Sarah Schanck said she hopes this is not the case.
“I think that’s ridiculous that people are going to lose their jobs and if tuition goes up, then some people will not be able to go, and some might even have to drop out,” she said.
Andy Robinson, vice president of Student Affairs, said that the bill will not save the state any money. He said if it were passed then all the institutions would have to develop some models of the functions the Chancellor’s office provides.
According to Dupont, the Finance Committee attempted to amend the bill to simply cut expenses — not the actual chancellor office. However, the amendment was unsuccessful when the full House of 400 members voted on it the last week of March. The House then passed the bill without amendment.
“HB 1692 was passed by the House of Representatives, where in an unusual action, the full House overturned the recommendation of the House Finance Committee,” MacKay stated in an email.
That committee had removed those conditions from the bill after correctly determining the bill would increase costs, according to MacKay. The bill has been sent to the Senate and assigned to the Senate Finance Committee, where it is expected to be heard in the next several weeks. The Senate has not yet scheduled a hearing.
Dupont said a review of the USNH services is being conducted now. He has established two board committees to undertake this work. The first is a change management task force which will undertake the review of system policies and board governance and oversight.
The second task force is a communications and government relations task force to review and restructure, as necessary, the communications and government affairs efforts.
“The original rationale for the bill has never been clearly stated and based on public comments by the sponsor; there was a great deal of inaccurate information used to frame the bill,” MacKay said.
If the bill would be approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate in its current form and allowed to be placed in statute by the Governor, then the effective date would be June 30, 2013.
Kaitlyn Coogan can be contacted at email@example.com.