Education

New Hampshire governor’s budget pitch would send millions of dollars less to colleges post-merger

Dive Brief:

  • New Hampshire’s Gov. Chris Sununu, who has proposed merging the its two- and four-year college systems, expects the state would provide them nearly $14 million less in funding in fiscal year 2023 than in 2020.

  • His budget proposal calls for the 11 institutions comprising the University System of New Hampshire and the Community College System of New Hampshire to be fully integrated in fiscal 2023.

  • Sununu, a Republican, previously said he envisions a system that makes it easier for students to take classes at different public institutions. However, some consolidations in other states have proven unpopular and difficult to achieve.

Dive Insight:

Sununu, in his virtual budget address earlier this month, touted the benefits of such crossovers, which could include a student enrolled at a two-year school conducting a research project at a four-year university. He also expressed a desire to eliminate competition among the state’s institutions. 

His budget summary echoes those intentions, stating that the potential change “empowers students to design their education paths that best suit their needs.” Though full integration would happen in 2023, it would unite the systems’ governance structures immediately. 

Consolidation has been a topic of discussion for around two decades, John Lynch, a former Democratic governor of the state and past chair of the four-year system’s governing board, wrote in an op-ed last week backing the measure. 

Lynch drew attention to both systems’ enrollment troubles, noting they are anticipated to worsen in the coming years as the pool of high school graduates dries up. 

New Hampshire has struggled to keep students in state. The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems ranks it 14th-highest in the number of students who leave their state for college. 

The governor’s consolidation proposal has generated some support among the state’s higher education leaders who are contending with these conditions. 

James Dean Jr., president of the University of New Hampshire, said in a statement earlier this month that he is optimistic the move would benefit his institution and the state. 

The university system’s trustee board was more wholehearted in its endorsement, saying in a statement that the merger “is the best possible approach to securing, for the long term, the state’s capacity to offer all its residents affordable, accessible, and diverse pathways to a high quality education.”

New Hampshire gave $151.8 million to the two systems in fiscal 2020, according to the governor’s budget proposal. The combined entity is projected to receive $140 million in fiscal 2022. It would get $138 million in fiscal 2023. 

It’s not the only state considering consolidation. Pennsylvania’s public system is seeking to unify six of its universities into two separately accredited institutions, citing demographic shifts and financial burdens the pandemic has compounded. 

Past mergers in other states have been controversial. Legislation to incorporate two Florida colleges into its state flagship failed late last year over lawmaker concerns.

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