My Turn: New Hampshire colleges and universities celebrate 50 years of collaboration

For the Monitor
Published: 8/25/2016 12:15:03 AM

In the summer of 1966, the United States was facing very uncertain times.

Our nation was embroiled in an unpopular and challenging war in Vietnam, racial tensions were running high with urban riots a regular focus of national news broadcasts, and baby boomers were swelling the enrollments on our nation’s college and university campuses.

In the midst of all this turmoil, a group of public and private college presidents came together in New Hampshire to explore the possibility of working more closely together.

The result of their discussion was the founding of the New Hampshire College and University Council, which last month celebrated its 50th anniversary.

The NHCUC is a unique consortium brought together by public and private, not-for-profit, college and university presidents from across the state to consider ways to work more closely together, share scarce resources and enhance the educational experiences for students.

Back in 1966, it was unusual for public and private college presidents to engage with one another, and in truth it remains pretty unique even today.

In most states private colleges belong to a “private college only” association and the public colleges have their own system offices to coordinate their institutions. In New Hampshire we are fortunate to have a strong culture where nearly all our colleges and universities are open to working together in collaboration and cooperation.

Over the past 50 years, the NHCUC member institutions have mutually benefited through supporting collaborative programs in admissions, shared library resources, career services, and professional development programs for faculty and staff members.

The NHCUC also serves as an important voice advocating for the higher education sector. All too often the contributions of our higher education institutions are underappreciated.

Colleges and universities in the Granite State collectively are a major contributor to our state’s economy, with an estimated $6 billion economic impact annually.

Together NHCUC member institutions employ over 18,000 individuals with salaries and benefits that exceed $1 billion.

Consider the economic influence alone of the over 92,000 undergraduate and graduate students who attend NHCUC institutions in their local communities.

There is probably no other industry in the state that consistently makes the level of capital improvements to their infrastructure that our post-secondary education institutions do every year. These construction projects employ a large number of professional and skilled labor positions that generate additional positive financial impacts.

Today, the cost of attending college is a serious concern for students, families and higher education institutions themselves. Finding ways to control costs, share resources and improve quality is a challenge every college and university confronts.

In a state where no general fund dollars are available for scholarships to encourage students to study in New Hampshire, where public institutions regularly receive the lowest percentage of support among the 50 states, where students carry the highest student debt in the country and where our demographic trends point to a rapidly declining college age population for years ahead, the challenges can indeed seem daunting.

However, not all the data is negative. Students attending New Hampshire’s colleges and universities typically graduate at a higher rate than the national average, enrollments on most campuses are stable or growing, and new degree and certificate programs are regularly being developed in response to workforce needs on nearly every New Hampshire campus.

As New Hampshire faces challenges just as daunting as those confronted in 1966, it is encouraging to know that for more than 50 years our higher education institutions have worked together through the NHCUC to help ensure accessible higher education opportunities for our citizens.

As we dedicate this year to celebrating a half-century of collaborative accomplishments, please consider how you and your business might help ensure our continued culture of public and private higher education institutions working together as a model for enhanced collaboration.

(Dr. Tom Horgan is president and CEO of the NHCUC.)


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