The View from T-Hall

Keep UNH Strong

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As I travel across New Hampshire and the nation to talk about the future of UNH in light of the state's budget crisis, people are sometimes surprised that my message is more optimistic and intent on solutions than it is on hand-wringing.

It's surprising perhaps because of the magnitude of the challenge.

After all, there is no way to sugarcoat the news that the New Hampshire House has proposed a 45 percent cut in state support to the University System—which would mean a loss of $31 million for UNH. New Hampshire is already last in the nation in support for higher education, and this would take state funding back to 1992 levels.

So where's the source of my optimism? I find it both in how we are responding today, and in how UNH is preparing for the new economy in the future.

As this magazine goes to press, we're working hard to fight the cut before the final state budget is voted on in June. Faculty and staff are also working hard to identify ways to save money and raise revenue so that we can reduce the impact of this cut on the working families who send their children to UNH as well as the many communities we serve. And we're making a strong case to the state Senate that it makes good business sense to restore funding when it votes on the budget in late May. Moreover, I know that UNH can not only survive the next budget cycle, but can transform itself in ways that will make both UNH and the state of New Hampshire stronger. Last year, we challenged the university to rethink, reinvent and reshape the very core of what we do so that UNH is more responsive, efficient and innovative than ever. The result was the UNH Strategic Plan for 2020, a blueprint that rewards entrepreneurship, innovative thinking and market-inspired solutions while maintaining our commitment to excellence in education and research. But instead of 10 years to make it happen, we now have to accomplish it in just a few. The plan's goals are already exemplified by two public-private partnerships we launched last year: the New Hampshire Innovation Commercialization Center, which provides expert business services and seed money to new companies; and the Green Launching Pad, which encourages entrepreneurs who are developing environmentally friendly businesses. These types of strategic efforts are now beginning to bear fruit that will help the state's economy and, ultimately, help UNH's bottom line. Already, UNH contributes $1.3 billion in economic activity to New Hampshire each year. For the state's $68 million investment, that's an incredible return for our economy and for our students, families, UNH alumni and businesses. Over the coming months, I'm optimistic that state lawmakers, potential public and private partners and UNH alumni and donors will honor the value of our work and reward us with their support and collaborations. As daunting as today's budget issues are, I find inspiration in knowing what we can accomplish when we come together for the common good of UNH. You represent our success—from teachers to engineers, from nurses to business leaders, artists and accountants—all of you have benefited from the education we now provide to our students each and every day. I urge all of you to stay engaged with us, and with decision-makers, particularly at the state level. We have developed a website to help our alumni and friends stay informed. Please bookmark the page and check back often. Help us keep UNH—and New Hampshire—strong.

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