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Our Turn: We are all richer because of public higher education

As former governors who were honored to serve the people of New Hampshire, we know firsthand that balancing a state budget for the greatest public good is a truly challenging responsibility, one that those on both sides of the aisle take to heart. With that in mind and as the only two governors to have graduated from the University of New Hampshire, we are also proud to stand with parents, students, alumni and business leaders in supporting efforts to restore state funding for the University System of New Hampshire.

One of the most powerful investments our state makes to create opportunity, inspire innovation and maintain “The New Hampshire Advantage” is our support for public higher education. In simple terms: An educated workforce is the economic engine that drives our state forward. And given the recent recession and the struggles facing working families and businesses, New Hampshire needs that investment now more than ever.

New Hampshire must make the commitment to reinvest in public higher education to ensure that our state continues to succeed in an increasingly competitive and innovative regional, national and global economy.

Beyond offering today’s students a first-rate education, our public colleges and universities extend remarkable support to every community and economic sector of New Hampshire through research, expertise, technology and a skilled workforce. USNH institutions generate about $2 billion a year in economic activity for the state.

In 2011, for example, our public higher education institutions provided technical assistance to more than 5,000 New Hampshire businesses. And businesses that received that help were far more likely to survive – and thrive. USNH institutions educate more than half of the state’s graduates in the fields of engineering, engineering technology and computer science, all of which are in high demand and short supply.

In fact, in response to industry demand, USNH and the Community College System of New Hampshire recently committed to doubling the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates by 2025.

These efforts create a vital pipeline of talent. And by hiring our graduates, our businesses help us to keep New Hampshire students in our state, where they contribute to their communities.

USNH institutions also educate our nurses and first responders, help our cities and towns build better bridges and roads, train our teachers, strengthen our state’s important travel and tourism industry, and help our entrepreneurs on the path to success. Popular programs such as the UNH Cooperative Extension assist our agriculture and forestry sectors, and develop new markets, products and services. In fact, Cooperative Extension’s outreach mission also inspires our state’s spirit of volunteerism, rallying some 800 volunteers who gave more than 65,000 hours to their communities last year.

Our investment in human capital is every bit as important as the return on the bottom line. We are all richer because of public higher education, and keeping it affordable and accessible is a shared responsibility.

Finally, it is important to bear in mind that state support for public higher education goes directly to making college more accessible and affordable for in-state students. State support also allows the public colleges and universities to accept more in-state students, providing the workforce that encourages businesses to expand and locate in New Hampshire.

In the interest of maintaining The New Hampshire Advantage, we urge our citizens and elected leaders to join us in supporting efforts to restore public support for public higher education for the Granite State.

(Republican Stephen Merrill served as governor from 1993-97. Democrat John Lynch served as governor from 2005-2012.)

Legacy Comments14

FACT entered into discussion....in the last year since Obama seized the student loan program from the private sector it has made $$$ 51 BILLION in interest over the last year on the backs of students .........way to go democrats

I like Steve Merrill and I absolutely disagree with most of this opinion piece. Most of all I am appalled by full time professors having adjuncts and instructors teaching classes while they earn six figure incomes and teach one class per week. Colleges are degree mills today, you have to have the degree and you have to pay for it. Gracchus writes below that colleges are there to "turn out better citizens". Sounds like indoctrination to me. That is not their function, they are there to impart knowledge to the student, information that few who are not in technical fields will never use in the real world. We need to prepare our young people for the real world of work. The side effect is a hard working, more effective folks who can improve the world. Universities are not there to shape the minds of new citizens.

The universities have gone from revered institutions of higher learning and research to flat-out, all the market will bear for-profit businesses (despite many being tax supported non-profits). I see way too many graduates getting out with debt's of $100-150,000 and that is after paying BIG bucks all along. How can these grads hope to get a foot up, buy a house and start a family? This makes richer? Maybe the loan companies.

pre Head Start for nothing more that an infant daycare costs over $40,000 for the 3 years ....same for regular head start.....now you want to add another $40,000 for Higher Ed.....on which world is this sustainable for the 50% of us producers that actually pay taxes.

Waaaah! Waaaaaaah! Waaaaaaaaah! Since mostly everything in this state is funded by property tax, isn't reference to "producers" nonsense? Or do we need to look at public higher education in the context of Ayn Rand's fairy tales?

Bravo Governors!!!! This piece needed to be written. And it needs to be read by ALL residents of NH!

Thank you Governors Merrill and Lynch for a well thought out letter about a current problem. My suggestion is if we're going to pay for education (higher or lower) through property taxes then we should end the property tax loophole called "current use". Current use has cost education much as the rest of us subsidize the many land and property owners that don't use their land for this law's intended purpose.

Lynch & Merrill have been huge supporters of Current Use. Forest based manufacturing brings in 1.5 billion in revenue to NH. Supports 8,100 jobs. Forest based recreation and tourism brings in 1.1 billion a year and supports 11,400 jobs. Timber tax for sale of timber brings in 3 million a year in revenue to the state. 63% of land in current use is owned by families. That can be apple orchards, christmas tree growers, and maple syrup folks. Any argument to get rid of current use should be balanced with facts and stats about how it works, what revenue it brings in etc.

Nothing says "I support higher education" better than suggesting someone else pay for it.

AGREED 100%, so let’s stop the tax payer funding and let those that use the colleges pay for them. Why "are" they asking me to pay. Watch the prices drop when 50% of the students don't show up one semester and they tell the school it is because of the cost.

Depends on which side of the fence you set. You have a kid going to college, the writers want to help lower the cost to the student to pay for that education. How to do this, make every person pay higher taxes. The writers want a better educated workforce for businesses within the state to hire. How to do this, make every person pay higher taxes. Letter notes a $2 billion a year in economic activity for the state and technical assistance to more than 5,000 New Hampshire businesses, but again who is being asked to pay. Not the student or the businesses who gain the MOST, but everyone else. Why are those 5,000 businesses not paying for those services. The winners (business and students) want “everyone else” to pay more so they pay less…… How about telling the schools to lower costs, fancy dorms, swimming pools, sports teams, stadiums, and of course the mid six-figure salary of professors teaching 3 classes a semesters. How about the UNH bus system that runs until 11pm, the tax payers even have to pay for the students ride home after the parties. If the students and business want all these things then let them pay for them or demand lower school costs.

Public colleges and universities are not intended to be glorified trade schools. Their function is to turn out better citizens, not better employees. From that we all benefit. If corporations receive more than their share from publicly provided education, that's the fault of 1) the legislature who refuse to modernize and rationalize the state's tax system, 2) a string of governors who all "pledge" to veto any serious attempt at structural change, and 3) the misguided voters who keep returning these clowns to office.

If you look at how UNH actually gets its funding, the state government kicks in about 5% of the money. The rest of it comes from other sources, including donations from the business community. Two years ago, the state's share was cut almost in half: the university made some needed cuts, but it did indeed choose to maintain the same level of services by raising ore money from its other sources.

5%?? I thought that was cut to 3%?

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