By Tom Spencer, Staff Writer
Say the words “free pizza” and a college student will start salivating. Add “frozen tuition,” and you may need to grab a mop.
That was the rationale behind a luncheon held on Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Granite State Room. While students ate pizza, they wrote letters encouraging their state representatives to hold tuition rates in place by increasing state funding to UNH.
“If we can get 50 to 75 letters today that would be great,” said Mica Stark, the assistant vice president for public affairs at UNH.
Stark is part of UNH Works, a group advocating for state funding to go to UNH.
Throughout the lunch hours, the tables would empty and fill with students who would enjoy a slice of pizza as they wrote letters to their representatives.
“I heard ‘pizza,’ and I wanted to do something to keep tuition where it is, or get it to go down,” Logan Thorner, a junior recreation management and policy major said as she wrote a letter to her representative.
“It is difficult to have state school be such an expensive choice,” said Krista Ciaccio, a senior biology major said.
Both agreed that they were writing for students who would come after them, as tuition could not increase before they graduated.
Joshua Blake, a part-time student who is planning on becoming nutrition major, was writing with the hope that UNH would become more affordable for him.
“It’s not about partying,” Blake said of UNH. “It’s the future of New Hampshire.”
Christopher Chase, an equine industry and management major, was hoping to see money for the 75-year-old barn his program uses.
“The state can fund a medical marijuana dispensary…but not a college student,” Chase said.
Michael Verney, president of the graduate student senate, and graduate student senators Myles Lynch and Ian Cohen were also there to give their support for the event.
“In-state funding affects [graduate students] as much as undergrads,” Cohen said.
“It always comes down to cost of attendance,” said Lincoln Crutchfield, the business manager for UNH student senate about the main challenge facing students.
Stark outlined some of the larger funding goals of UNH Works. State funds come to UNH as a part of the University System of New Hampshire, which includes UNH, Keene State College, Granite State College, and Plymouth State University.
After a reduction in state funds from $100 million to $51 million in 2012, USNH has been receiving increases. After USNH received $84 million in the 2015 fiscal year, it hopes to receive $100 million in 2016, followed by $105 million in 2017.
After Stark saw some success with a similar letter writing campaign in 2013, UNH Works decided they wanted to do another one.
“I remember hearing from lawmakers,” Stark said. “They would show me copies of the letters they received from students.”
“We knew it was an effective, and very personalized way of talking to lawmakers about the importance of freezing tuition,” Stark said.
While Stark said he understood that many lawmakers believed in the importance of higher education, he knew that there were times when legislators can only do so much.
“What they might wish they could do and what they can do might be a little different,” Stark said. “They have a lot of competing priorities for limited state dollars.”
According to Tom Cronin, public affairs manager for UNH, the lunch hour ended with 75 letters written. Some students wrote letters to multiple representatives, so Cronin estimates that attendance was around 60 students.