University System Trustees Hopeful But 'Realistic' About State Funding

Feb 23, 2015

Wildcats statue at UNH
Credit courtesy University of New Hampshire

  The Governor’s budget proposal would fund the University System of New Hampshire with an additional thirteen million dollars which just a portion of the money the university system is asking for.

The system has stated that amount would be insufficient to maintain a freeze on in-state tuition, but they are waiting until the budget is finalized before setting rates.

Pamela Diamantis, the chair of the university system board of trustees, joined Morning Edition.

Students have enjoyed a tuition freeze for the past two years. The board has said that if their funding requests are met, public university students in New Hampshire might be the first in the nation to enjoy the same rate for all four years. Is there still a chance the tuition will maintain the same rate?

We would very much love to see another tuition freeze but we need to get to the numbers that would really allow us to do that. The current budget proposal falls shy of what really needs to get us there.

What factors will you take into consideration when it comes time to decide whether to freeze tuition or not?

State funding is the biggest factor impacting in-state tuition. We will also get some better guidance relative to enrollments and the mix of those enrollments. So the trustees will have an opportunity as we extend out in this process to have better information, to get to a number that they have a high level of confidence in, in being able to adopt a freeze at.

All signs point to the new budget being leaner in many ways than the previous budget. The governor presented what she called a ‘modest proposal’ and she has a Republican-controlled legislature to contend with. Do you believe the university system will be likely to get as much as you and the board of trustees are asking for?

We’re very realistic. We understand that New Hampshire is a small state. We have very tight revenue streams at the moment. So we’re taking a pragmatic approach. ‘Do the best you can and we’ll do the best we can.’ We are more challenged by the FY-16 versus the FY-17 number. And the reason why 2016 is a bigger issue is if you think about what’s been proposed, we’re currently funded at $84 million, this current FY-15, there was a rescission of $3 million and the governor is recommending $87 million for FY-16. So we need $3 million bring us back to level funding for the current fiscal year. Then that would mean an additional $3 million going into FY-16.

Assuming that you aren’t going to see the funding levels that you’d like, what is the plan going forward?

Our appropriation request was looking at three areas of potential funding. A freeze for in-state students, additional scholarships for students pursuing STEM programs and partnerships with the community college system where students can pay community college rates at a four-year school for the final year. The fewer dollars or the further away from the request, the less of those items we’ll be able to do.

There’s a capital appropriation to build a new science center at UNH. But the Governor’s budget only carved out $5 million for that. What will happen with the project?

We asked for $38 million but the actual cost of the project is estimated somewhere between $50-70 million. So we were asking the state to partner with us and we would look to come up with the additional funding. At $5 million, that just becomes too far out of reach.