A conversation with David Proulx '92, '00G, UNH associate vice president for finance, about a legislative proposal for deep cuts in state funding to the university.
Q: As we speak, where does the funding for UNH stand? A: The New Hampshire House of Representatives has passed a budget that would cut state funding to UNH by 45 percent—about $31 million—which is far more than the $5 million cut for USNH proposed by Gov. John Lynch '74. Now the state Senate is preparing its own version of the budget. In addition, we are facing potential reductions in state and federal financial aid funding and state capital appropriations. This is a very serious situation.
Q: The state-funded part of the UNH budget is already down to 13 percent, from 25 percent in 1980. What's the harm in cutting it in half again? A: It took us 30 years to be able to absorb that reduction, and it has resulted in significantly higher tuition rates for our students. President Huddleston has pointed out that the new strategic plan calls for UNH to be aggressive in generating more revenue from multiple sources, but that will take time.
Q: How will UNH generate more revenue? A: The cuts are going to push the revenue-producing goals of our strategic plan onto the fast track. These include having a year-round calendar for classes, developing additional professional degree programs, increasing technology enhanced learning, expanding research programs, commercializing more intellectual property, expanding international enrollment, building the new Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, expanding our market in Manchester, developing programs with UNH School of Law and launching a major fundraising campaign.
Q: Some of those things—internationalization and building a new business school—sound like they might cost more money. A: Actually, internationalization is bringing in money. We've contracted with Navitas, a company that recruits foreign students, who will pay full nonresident tuition once admitted to UNH.The business school does require an investment up front, but we believe that increased enrollments and executive development programs will generate millions of dollars per year. We are getting a state-of-the-art building for a 60 percent discount due to private funding.
Q: What will UNH do to cut costs? A: We're looking at a voluntary separation incentive plan for faculty and staff, to encourage early retirement. We're also looking at reducing costs in things like travel, printing, conferences, computer purchases and software. Also there will be, at least on a short-term basis, a hiring freeze.
Q: You haven't mentioned layoffs. A: There may be layoffs, if we can't achieve enough savings with other measures, but that would be a last resort.
Q: Have tuition increases been ruled out? A: They have been ruled out at this time. We are very focused on maintaining a competitive cost of attendance for our students and providing accessibility for New Hampshire students.
Q: What has been done to be proactive about trimming costs? A: The USNH Board of Trustees has reduced benefits for nonunionized staff by about $8.8 million dollars, starting next year. We have been working for the past several years to reduce costs by offering several separation incentive programs, selective hiring freezes, reorganizing in several areas, increasing fundraising, aggressively addressing energy costs and forgoing salary increases for employees. These are difficult steps to take, especially when faculty and staff are working harder than ever to preserve the high quality of a UNH education.