In a letter sent out last September, University of New Hampshire (UNH) President James Dean and Provost Wayne Jones described the university’s goal of “building financial strength” and their “overarching aspiration of being a top 25 public university on the most important measures of academic performance.” They detailed an upcoming review and analysis to be completed by the Huron Consulting Firm. Dean wrote “…toward that end, UNH has hired Huron to work with us this fall semester to conduct an in-depth review including revenues and costs across all academic and administrative areas at the university.” The letter outlined the objectives and defended the cost, a $600,000 contract with the firm.
“Based on Huron’s work with other universities, we anticipate that UNH could realize benefits greater than $12 million or approximately 2 percent of our operating budget over the next two years as a result of their work and implementation of their recommendations. In short, we are confident that this will be a very good return on investment,” they wrote.
Huron’s review began soon after and was completed in December, with the results being published in January. A steering committee was formed to work with Huron, led by Provost Jones, Vice President Chris Clement and Interim Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Cathy Provencher.
After the publication of the Huron review, one thing students and community members alike were talking about was the possible lay-offs that would follow. In Update #17 from Dean, he wrote that they expected a reduction in FTEs, or full-time equivalent employees. However, he noted that they were unable to project the size of these reductions. In an effort to relieve some concerns, Dean wrote “I have also been asked if there is a list of employees who will be displaced. The answer is no—there is no such list. We recognize that eliminating positions is difficult and painful. Anyone who has their position eliminated will be treated with the utmost concern and respect; we are already exploring potential outplacement services.”
UNH Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs Erika Mantz explained more of the process and answered questions in an email to The New Hampshire. Mantz explained that “a review of this depth and breadth is rare; none has been done [at UNH] in a very long time, if ever.”
When asked about the benefits of being a “top 25” public university, Mantz wrote, “… These measures will benefit students by making a UNH education more accessible and affordable, as well as result in increased research funding and efficiencies that will benefit residents of the state and the world. Put another way, the top-25 goal is simply a way to assess how well we are accomplishing our core mission as a public research university.”
An area of most interest for readers is probably how this report and findings have been received by the community. Mantz answered, “Reaction has been mostly positive. While the potential impact on jobs is a concern, there is also recognition that building financial strength must be one of the university’s top priorities. Identifying revenues and expense reduction opportunities will allow us to reinvest across the university to support our strategic priorities. In President Dean’s conversations with alumni around the state and the country, many have expressed support for this initiative.”
Mantz explained that students have been involved in the process, including on the steering committee and in meetings with Dean and Jones.
“In addition, President Dean has held regular office hours for undergraduate and graduate students since shortly after he arrived on campus. Student success and well-being is at the heart of everything we do,” she added.
President Dean will hold several town hall sessions on the topic, at UNH Durham on Feb. 17 and Feb. 18, at UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law on Feb. 19 and at UNH Manchester on Feb. 25.
For more coverage of Dean’s State of the University address and his discussion of the Huron report, see Ben Strawbridge’s article of the event in the Feb. 6.