UNH President Mark Huddleston, in an email sent out last Saturday, encouraged communiy members to join the UNH Works advocacy effort, in response to Governor Chris Sununu’s recent budget proposal that gives no increased funding to public higher education.
UNH Works is a group of 3,500 students, alumni, family and friends of the university who reach out to New Hampshire legislatures on the role UNH plays in the advancing future of the granite state.
According to UNH Public Affairs Manager Thomas Cronin, UNH Works was created in 2011 in response to an almost 50 percent budget cut to the University System of New Hampshire (USNH), which includes UNH, Plymouth State College, Keene State College and Granite State College. UNH Works, run out of the public affairs office, updates its advocates on current New Hampshire legislature so they can reach out to state senators and representatives and promote UNH’s value. Cronin added that the advocacy effort largely focuses on the budget and educational funding.
“The idea really was to bring together UNH students, parents, alumni and friends of the university to help better understand UNH’s value to the state,” Cronin said. “And then go to state lawmakers and tell them UNH’s story about why we are deserving resources and funding and support from the state.”
Cronin said he is “fairly confident” that New Hampshire has one of the smallest state general fund budgets in the country on a per capita basis, which means there is high competition among state agencies for the limited funds collected through taxes such as state, property and real estate. Cronin added that it is crucial to obtain as much money as possible for the USNH due to the correlation between how much money the state offers to buy out tuition costs and the costs of tuition for in-state students.
Assistant professor of political science and director of the Masters of Public Administration program, Daniel Bromberg, says that, in general, groups like these can be effective in making change as long as they are well organized.
“Well organized interest groups do much better than those that are not organized,” Bromberg said. “When you are able to speak with one voice and essentially have a pretty clear platform for what you want, you tend to be more effective.”
Now that Sununu has released the budget proposal, the New Hampshire House of Representatives will have until April 6 to make changes and submit the revised edition. The state Senate will then have until June 22 to do the same. By June 30, Sununu will either pass or veto the house and senate’s reconciled version. Though there is more than five months before the new two year budget is put into effect, UNH senior history major and USNH student board representative Lincoln Crutchfield does not feel it is fair to put “everything” on UNH Works in regard to raising funding for UNH and USNH.
“I think we need a lot of help from our friends on both sides the aisle to push the UNH and USNH agenda forward,” Crutchfield said. “And that’s a good agenda and the right agenda for the state. If we don’t push that agenda we are delaying making a better future.”
According to Cronin, New Hampshire has an aging workforce and “we [UNH] are the primary educator.”
“If [New Hampshire] is going to continue to have a 21st century economy, we need to have 21st century skilled employees going out into the workforce, taking those jobs in order for those jobs and those businesses to stay here in the state,” Cronin said.