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USNH and CCSNH set to merge amidst financial struggles


In a recent budget address, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced the merger of the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) and the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH). 

Currently, the 11 campuses in New Hampshire remain under two systems, governed by two separate boards. The plan aims to merge the USNH’s Board of Trustees with the CCSNH’s Board of Trustees.  

One of the primary aims of the move is to save money system-wide, as this move comes as the University of New Hampshire (UNH) faces a $10 million operating deficit at the end of FY20. Much of this is due to the $27 million in refunds provided to students when UNH transitioned to remote operations in March 2020 due to COVID-19.  

In President James Dean’s State of the University Address in Feb. of 2021, he noted the University’s $600,000 partnership with Huron Consulting, which analyzed over $12 million in savings through layoffs in areas such as information technology, fleet services and the library.  

The partnership with Huron Consulting was announced in September of 2019, with the process still ongoing.  

In a letter to the university community in January of 2020, Dean noted the university was in the preliminary stages of partnership, and as such he was not aware of how many positions would be cut.  

“We recognize that eliminating positions is difficult and painful,” Dean wrote in his letter. “Anyone who has their position eliminated will be treated with the utmost concern and respect; we are already exploring potential outplacement services. I want to reiterate that this is all in service of strengthening our ability to perform our core mission.” 

The number of cuts from Huron Consulting’s findings have not been published by the university. 

Even with university and system-wide budgetary shortfalls from COVID-19, Gov. Sununu believes this merger will ultimately save money.  

“Each university and college will still maintain their own campus, their own brand, but this change will help open doors for our students and avoid each separate campus wasting time and money and frankly just competing with each other,” Sununu said. 

For example, a student beginning a degree at Great Bay Community College would be able to pursue research opportunities at UNH. 

“Why shouldn’t a student at Nashua Community College also be able to do a research and development project at the University of New Hampshire?” Sununu said. “Or why shouldn’t a Plymouth State student be able to take summer nursing classes at Manchester Community College? Allowing students the ease of creating their own pathway in education will be the defining characteristic of this modernized 21st century system.” 

Sununu also believes that the merger will allow the universities to work cooperatively in tackling crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The last year is the perfect example. Each system had to address the challenges of the pandemic individually, without the opportunity to jointly leverage resources as the institutions worked to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19,” Sununu said in a tweet. 

The University System Board of Trustees supports this move from Gov. Sununu, believing it is the best possible way forward in offering residents affordable, accessible and diverse pathways to high-quality education. 

“One of the hallmarks of the state’s higher education systems is the diversity of mission and capability among its eleven institutions,” the Board said in a press release.  

Dean announced his support for the move, believing the benefits of the plan are plausible. 

“I am optimistic that this change will be positive for New Hampshire in general and for the University of New Hampshire,” said Dean in a memo from the Office of the President.  

Despite this, Dean reaffirmed that UNH remains his priority going forward, despite these ongoing structural changes.  

“Of course, as this unfolds we will continue as always to focus on and pursue our mission, aspiration and strategic priorities,” said Dean. 

Photo courtesy of Gov. Chris Sununu

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