Letter to the Editor: Support for President Huddleston's Testimony
April 27, 2011
Dear Alumni and Friends of UNH:
The subject of this letter is the state's contribution to its university system.
As a resident of New Hampshire and an alumnus of UNH ('65), I thought President Huddleston's testimony before the Senate Finance Committee was brilliant. His recognition of the state's fiscal crises and his willingness to address the problems created by that crises was straight-forward and frank; yet, he made several compelling arguments as to why those cuts should be phased in rather than all occur in the next fiscal year.
Two points raised by President Huddleston were most interesting to me, but I hope my favorite two points don't distract anyone from the President Huddleston's testimony in its entirety.
Phased-in budget cuts would reduce the negative effect to both UNH and New Hampshire's economy. An economy's most important asset are an educated and trained population, which, in sum, is its human capital. The more human capital, the more productive that economy. Lots of human capital, coupled with good governance, are what separate the developed world from the under-developed world.
Contrary to common belief, the amount of a country's natural resources is not an important component of its gross domestic product and per capita wealth. Next to good and wise governance, human capital is the single most critical component to a thriving economy . Many of the most underdeveloped nations are rich in natural resources, but lack human capital and good governance. In other words, human capital is a primary determinant of a strong economy.
That was Huddleston's point when he explained that UNH-educated people add $562 million dollars to a skilled New Hampshire work-force and contributes $1.3 billion to the state's economy. As an example of the school's contribution to the state's human capital and economic wealth, President Huddleston said that UNH graduates a third of the state's college graduates in science-related fields.
The second stand-out issue for me was the president's explanation of the high percent of a New Hampshire family's income that must be used to send a student to UNH. Tuition and other required expenses are already prohibitive for many of the state's families, and the tuition numbers are getting worse. Through bold initiatives, President Huddleston has outlined and begun a transformation program that will address the tuition problem and many others issues that will drive UNH toward excellence. With the transformation, UNH will be a model that other schools will follow. This transformation was scheduled to occur over the next ten years, but under the budget proposed by the New Hampshire House, it won't take place at all, meaning tuitions will increase and the transformation model will be unattainable. Huddleston has proposed that if the budget cuts are reasonably phased in over the next few years, that transformation may be attainable and the phased cuts will not be as harmful to the state's economy.
UNH now ranks last in state funding of its universities, and its students graduate with the second highest debt of all state universities. It's one thing for the state government to ask for austerity -- we can all accept that. It's quite another thing for the state to cut its university budget so much that it fundamentally hurts the school and the New Hampshire's economy. The House budget proposal is penny-wise but pound-foolish.
To make it simple: It's okay to clean out the barn but don't kill the milk cows.