Higher Education

Citizens Count Editor

In Brief:

  • New Hampshire has the lowest state funding for higher education in the US and the highest average in-state tuition for public colleges and universities.
  • The state legislature has increased university funding since the 2008 recession, and the university system has been able to slow tuition increases.
  • There are a range of different policy approaches that can be used to try to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ from public higher education.
  • Pro: The lack of state funding for higher education in New Hampshire is the cause of high in-state tuition, which burdens students with debt, drives young people out of state, and drags down the whole economy.
  • Con: The University of New Hampshire has made questionable spending decisions that prove the system should tighten its budget before the state significantly increases funding.

Issue Facts:

Public colleges and universities are higher education institutions founded by state governments and partially funded through state tax dollars.

New Hampshire’s public colleges and universities include the University System of New Hampshire, the Community College System of New Hampshire, Keene State College, Plymouth State University, and Granite State College. They are funded through a combination of state money, federal funds, tuition and fees, and private donations. 

The New Hampshire Legislature does not have control over the entire university system budget or what they charge for tuition.  Instead, the Legislature decides how much state funding to give public higher education every two years as part of the state budget.  Leaders at New Hampshire’s public colleges and universities then decide how to spend that money and set tuition rates.

Current higher education funding in New Hampshire

New Hampshire funding for public colleges and universities is low compared to other states.

On average, public colleges and universities in the United States get about one-fifth of their funding from state government. In New Hampshire, state funding only covers about one-tenth of the budget for the University System of New Hampshire. 

According to data from the College Board, in 2016 New Hampshire had the lowest state funding for higher education in the United States, at $2,900 per student (based on total enrollment). 

Tuition and fees cover most of the difference.  In New Hampshire, tuition and fees make up over one-third of the revenue for public colleges and universities, compared to a national average of 21%.

It is not surprising, then, that New Hampshire public colleges and universities also the highest average in-state tuition in the United States, at $15,650 in 2016. (The national average was $9,650.)

Historical highs and lows for university funding

Funding for public colleges and universities was much higher before the recession. In 2001 New Hampshire funding per student reached a high of $5,515

However, due to falling tax revenues, the 2011 New Hampshire Legislature cut college and university funding by roughly half, down to less than $2,000 per student.  The University of New Hampshire raised tuition at its four-year colleges by about 10% to cover the loss. 

The Legislature restored about half of that higher education funding in the next state budget, in 2013. New Hampshire’s two-year community colleges and four-year institutions were both able to freeze tuition for the next two years. 

In 2015 the Legislature once again increased college and university funding, but this time only by about 5%. The community college was able to actually cut tuition at that point, but the University of New Hampshire broke the freeze and raised tuition at four-year colleges again.

In 2017, the most recent budget year, the Legislature level-funded the University System of New Hampshire but gave the Community College System more funding. In return, New Hampshire’s community colleges have promised another tuition freeze. Tuition is expected to continue to increase at New Hampshire’s four-year public colleges and universities.

Alternatives to increasing state funding

Most legislators agree that New Hampshire residents benefit from lower tuition at public colleges and universities. Raising state funding isn’t the only way to keep college affordable for Granite Staters, however.

There are also various state and federal student loan programs that help students afford college – at least in the short-term. However, some critics argue the wide availability of student loans just enables colleges to raise tuition.

Efficiency
The Legislature has expressed interest in how the university system could spend more efficiently. For example, public colleges and universities could offer more courses online, limit spending on athletics, or use more adjunct faculty instead of tenured professors. 

Alternative funding formulas
One way the Legislature could push for public colleges and universities to spend more efficiently would be to link funding to student enrollment or educational outcomes, instead of granting an arbitrary lump sum.

Spending caps
Some states have passed laws to cap how much universities may raise tuition, such as limiting increases to a certain percentage each year, or tying them to changes in the state’s median income. Others legislate how much universities can spend on certain programs. These caps can keep tuition low, but might put more pressure on legislators to use state funds to make up any shortfall in a school’s budget.

In Maryland, lawmakers have addressed this challenge by creating a stabilization fund—a special ‘rainy day’ fund for the public university system which can be tapped when revenue drops or costs go up to take the pressure off tuition rates.

Funding financial aid
Some states allocate additional spending to financial aid, rather than general institutional aid. The goal of this policy is to see that the extra money is targeted toward helping poorer students who might not otherwise be able to afford college. However, critics express concern that the “sticker shock” of overall tuition rates might intimidate some out of applying at all. 

Competition
Colorado has experimented with a sort of voucher program, which gives every college student a stipend for credits at either public or private colleges.  Ideally this program forces public colleges to compete with private colleges to offer the best value for students.

Related Issues

Budget 2018-2019
Jobs, Trades, and Skills Training

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

 “New Hampshire should increase funding for higher education.”

  • According to almost any measure, New Hampshire provides the lowest support for public higher education of any state in the U.S.  For example, a study from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association found that New Hampshire allocates just 1.9% of tax revenues to higher education, compared to a national average of 5.7%. 
  • As long as New Hampshire’s support for public colleges remains low, tuition is most likely going to remain high.  This doesn’t just hurt students and their families in the short-term.  In the long-term, it burdens students with debt that limits their job prospects  (for example, most health care students can’t afford to work in low-income or rural areas, where salaries are lower, and still make loan payments). It also makes them less likely to make large investments, such as purchasing a home. This has a negative effect on the entire economy. 
  • A higher percentage of students in New Hampshire leave the state to go to college than anywhere else in the US, with the sole exception of Vermont. This makes it more likely those young people will permanently settle out-of-state, exacerbating the challenge of New Hampshire’s increasingly aging demographics. Lowering in-state tuition could help entice students to stay here instead of moving away.  
  • The university system demonstrated its commitment to cost-cutting in 2013, when it froze tuition despite not getting all the funding it requested from the Legislature.  If the state increases university funding in the future, legislators can be confident students will see the difference in their tuition rates.
  • According to a nation-wide 2009 study from Research in Higher Education, every $1 of taxpayer money spent on higher education has a return of $2.35 in future tax revenue and savings on social services. (Though New Hampshire lacks a sales or income tax, the study also looked at the property taxes residents eventually pay, and these make up a significant portion of the Granite State’s revenue.)

"Against" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

 “New Hampshire should not increase funding for higher education.”

  • The average in-state tuition and fees for New Hampshire community colleges have actually decreased in recent years.  According to data from the College Board, the only other state to lower community college tuition during that time was Minnesota. 
  • The University of New Hampshire has not demonstrated it spends state money wisely.  For example, in 2016 the university spent $17,570 on a single light-up table at the dining hall. 
  • From 2005 to 2015 the amount UNH Durham spent per student (including graduate students) increased by 33%.  That’s faster than the rate of inflation over the same time period, about 21%.  Did the university really increase the value of education by that much over just ten years?  This spending growth suggests there is room for UNH to cut its budget.
  • The higher tuition at the University of New Hampshire is matched with a high quality education.  According to the U.S. News and World Report rankings of universities, UNH Durham tied for 49th out of 133 public colleges and universities in the United States. Tuition rates don’t need to decrease if students are receiving a higher-quality education. ()
  • Rather than increase funding for the university system overall, the state should focus on financial aid for students pursuing degrees in fields that have a shortage of qualified workers, such as the health care field.  To learn more about efforts to educate a new generation of workers in critical fields, visit our Jobs, Trades, and Skills Training issue page. 

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Signed by Governor

Adds a representative from the community college system to the Apprenticeship Advisory Council.

Killed in the House

Expands the categories that the university and community college systems cannot use to discriminate or give preferential treatment, to include "age, color, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, familial status, or actual or perceived status as a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault."

Killed in the House

Allows any person who is not otherwise prohibited by state or federal law to carry a pistol or revolver on the exterior grounds of any state university or community college property.

Killed in the Senate

Prohibiting the university system from acting against employees for membership in a group or organization, including a labor union.

Interim Study

Prohibits the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) and the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH) from distributing any state-funded financial assistance to any student who has failed to demonstrate legal residency in New Hampshire. This bill also limits adult education programs to legal residents.  The Senate amended the bill to only limit adult education programs to legal residents.

Signed by Governor

Makes the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Senate President permanent voting members of the university system board of trustees. A conference committee of legislators amended the bill to extend their membership to just June 30, 2019.

Tabled in the Senate

Renames New Hampshire's community colleges.

Tabled in the Senate

Modifies the law governing dual and concurrent enrollment, which allows high school students to earn college credit for certain courses. For example, this bill requires Department of Education, the community college system, and the university system to develop a model dual and concurrent enrollment agreement for schools.

Tabled in the Senate

Establishes a committee to study the creation of an economic improvement fund to provide researchers at New Hampshire's public universities with additional funds.

Interim Study

Amends the Children's Savings Account Program, creating a student and career and college investment program. State law requires a pilot program in Manchester and Coos county that gives each kindergarten student a $50 savings account. This bill expands the program to any student who completes a financial literacy program in the second grade or later, and increases the initial deposit to $250.

Killed in the House

Establishes a program for students in grades 11 and 12 interested in taking science, technology, engineering, or math courses, previously approved by the University System of New Hampshire or Community College System of New Hampshire, for college credit at a state-funded rate of $250 per course.

Killed in the Senate

Establishes a committee to study the feasibility of transferring authority over the University System of New Hampshire's budget to the Legislature. The House amended the bill to instead study how the university and community college systems spend taxpayer money, and how to increase accountability.

Killed in the House

Urges legislators to support bills to ensure that students from New Hampshire have access to debt-free higher education at public colleges and universities.

Tabled in the Senate

Establishes the New Hampshire college graduate retention incentive partnership (NH GRIP) which provides $1,000 annually for four years to an in-state college graduate who is hired by a participating in-state employer.

Tabled in the Senate

Establishes a skilled technology worker recruiting trust fund in the Treasury Department for the purpose of providing student debt relief. This bill appropriates $4 million over the next two fiscal years for the program.

Killed in the House

Requires the Adjutant General's Department to include at least $25,000 for the New Hampshire National Guard Scholarship (NHNGS) Fund in the Department's budget request each year. The House amended the bill to instead appropriate $25,000 each year, regardless of a request.

Killed in the House

Allows a town to establish a scholarship fund.

Signed by Governor

Requires the University System of New Hampshire and the Community College System of New Hampshire to provide detailed budgets upon legislative or executive request.

Killed in the House

Requires the trustees of the university system to submit a report detailing the operating budget for each institution in the university system for the next fiscal year.

Tabled in the House

Establishes the John and Molly Stark student debt reduction program, which would provide grants to New Hampshire residents who attend UNH and agree to work in New Hampshire for four years after graduation. The bill appropriates $1.2 million over the next two fiscal years for the program.

Killed in the House

Establishes the John and Molly Stark workforce opportunity program, a scholarship program for qualifying New Hampshire students enrolled in the Community College System of New Hampshire. The bill appropriates $1 million over the next two fiscal years for the program.

Killed in the House

Establishes a college scholarship program for UNH students pursuing careers in social services, such as nursing. Applicants would have to agree to work in New Hampshire for at least four years after graduating. The bill appropriates $1 to start the program.

Killed in the House

Establishes a college scholarship program for UNH students pursuing careers in health care. Applicants would have to agree to work in New Hampshire for at least five years after graduating. The bill appropriates $1 to start the program.

Killed in the House

Increases reporting requirements for Dartmouth's fund to assist indigent students.

Killed in the House

Prohibits a state university, institution, or entity funded by the state of New Hampshire from regulating the sale or possession of firearms.

Killed in the House

Establishes "academic freedom and whistleblower protection" for faculty members of UNH.

Killed in the House

Establishing a committee to study changes in the Community College System, particularly since the system became a self-governing entity.

Interim Study

Establishes the John and Molly Stark scholarship program, funded by gifts and grants, to pay half of tuition for top sudents attending state colleges and universities.

Interim Study

Proclaims that outdoor areas of the campuses of UNH and community colleges are public forums, and that universities and colleges receiving state funds must allow "spontaneous and contemporaneous assembly."

Interim Study

Creates a UNH scholarship, funded by gifts and grants, for students that aim to become math teachers.

Signed by Governor

Urges support of the 65/25 initiative, which aims for 65% of the state's working age population to hold a postsecondary credential or degree by the year 2025.

Tabled in the House

Establishes a fund for the University System of New Hampshire to give scholarships to students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) who agree to work in New Hampshire for at least five years after graduating

Killed in the House

Allows New Hampshire community colleges to offer four-year degrees.

Killed in the House

Establishes special university license plates to fund college scholarships.

Should NH increase funding for higher education?

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Issue Status

The state's community colleges will raise tuition by $5 per credit for in-state students next year, an increase of roughly 2.4%. The system said the increase would be largely offset by providing additional funding to scholarship programs and eliminating fees for application, orientation and graduation.

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