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End in Sight for New Hampshire’s Higher Education Funding Woes

During 2012, tuition costs increased for students across the United States after a bevy of cuts to state funding for public higher education. In New Hampshire, lawmakers and education leaders are struggling to find the best course of action to make higher education more accessible while working with reduced funding from the state. However, the recent election of Governor Maggie Hassan might prove to be a great boon to the system’s coffers.

Representatives from the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) said the main reason for increased tuition fees over the past few years was the reduced state funding. In 2011 alone, the state cut its spending on higher education by 49 percent. Currently, state funding for higher education per capita in New Hampshire is the lowest in the country, at a rate of $63.19 per resident, which is approximately half of the amount spent per capita by the next-lowest state.

Still, despite the funding challenges ahead for higher education institutions, system officials believe that over the next year the state funding for institutions will improve with the help of Governor Hassan, who strongly supported increasing state funding for USNH during her election campaign.

“Hassan has made restoration of our funding a priority, and we’re confident that we’ll have the opportunity to talk to her and other legislative leaders about the importance of higher education and the economy in this state, and why that’s a sound investment,” MacKay told the Nashua Telegraph.

Some state legislators point out that tuition fees continued to increase during a 15-year period of increased state higher education spending, and argue that high tuition rates are unrelated to the reduced budget, but are rather the result of overspending on administrative costs as well as numerous construction projects. However, such inefficiencies seem to have been brought under control in recent years. The system spent less than five percent of their budget on administrative costs during 2011 and USNH Chancellor Ed MacKay said that the system reduced those expenditures through layoffs following the significant state budget cuts.