UNH System Locks Tuition

Concord — The board of trustees for the University System of New Hampshire voted unanimously yesterday to freeze in-state tuition for the next two years.

The freeze marks the first time in 25 years the universities have not raised in-state tuition between academic years. The decision came two days after the legislature passed a new state budget that partially restored funding to the public universities that had been cut in the last biennial budget.

The university system, which includes the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University, Keene State College and Granite State College, dedicates itself to keeping the tuition of its schools low, Chancellor Todd Leach said.

“We think it’s particularly important that the public system provide the most access it can to New Hampshire students, and a big piece of that is affordability,” he said. “For us, to be able to keep tuition as low as possible is a big piece of our public mission and something our presidents are committed to.”

The universities’ ability to freeze tuition also shows students that the schools are supported by the state, Leach said.

“Being in a position where we can freeze tuition sends a new message of support and sends a strong message that the university institutions are an important resource to the state, not only for our students, but also for employers and the workforce,” he said.

Leach said this message of support was weakened two years ago when the public universities’ appropriation was cut by about 50 percent in the budget for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. In-state student enrollment noticeably declined, he said, partly because the lack of state support raised questions about the schools’ quality.

The university system asked the Legislature to restore its appropriation to its previous level in the new state budget, promising to put the funds toward making college affordable for New Hampshire students.

In the final state budget approved Wednesday, the schools were granted a partial restoration of their funding. By the second year of the biennial budget, the university system will be at 84 percent of its state appropriation before the cuts.

Leach said he recognizes the state’s decision on the budget was a significant step in the right direction.

“We certainly hope that path will continue and at some point we will be back to the levels we were at before the cuts, but at this point in time we’re very satisfied with the efforts of the Legislature, the senate and the governor’s office to make a serious effort to get those funds restored to the levels this budget brings them,” he said.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, an ex-officio member of the university system board of trustees, made the motion to freeze in-state tuition at the meeting. In a statement issued by her office following the unanimous decision, Hassan congratulated the board on its commitment to making higher education more affordable for New Hampshire residents.

The university system has worked well to “do more with less” and to continue to deliver an innovative education in the wake of past budget cuts, she said, but increasing tuition rates still hurt the state’s competitiveness and economic future.

“With the budget process now complete and funds for the university system substantially restored, freezing tuition for over 22,000 New Hampshire students will make a real difference for families and help us build a stronger workforce that will attract innovative companies,” Hassan said in the statement.

The university system was unable to freeze tuition in past years because its funding increases have always been relatively small and unable to keep up with the institution, Leach said.

But since the schools significantly cut costs after the last biennial budget, this year’s funding increase gave them the opportunity. Out-of-state tuition also increased this year, he said, which provides additional support for in-state students. Because of past cost-cutting measures, Leach does not anticipate the schools will need to make cuts to any programming this year that could negatively affect students.

While the freeze keeps in-state tuition constant, it does not include room and board. Leach said the schools do not use state-appropriated funds to subsidize these costs, and they are fully taken on by students. But the increase is moderate, he said.

“We’ve tried to keep that minimal as well; we know how much costs overall have become an important factor for families in New Hampshire,” Leach said. “We’re proud that ... the overall cost of attendance for New Hampshire public institutions is significantly less on average than private or for-profit options.”

Beyond keeping in-state tuition flat, any additional state funding will be used to create scholarships for New Hampshire students.

For the University of New Hampshire, in-state tuition will remain at $13,670 in the fall. In-state tuitions at Plymouth State University and Keene State College will both stay at $10,410.

Information for Granite State College was not available.