Testimony at Governor’s FY 2010-11 Operating Budget Hearing

Testimony by Sara Jayne Steen
President, Plymouth State University
21 November 2008, LOB 210

Good afternoon, Governor Lynch and members of the Fiscal Committee. I am Sara Jayne Steen, President of Plymouth State University.; I appreciate having the opportunity to speak with you today.

This is a time when the global economic turmoil requires all of us to make difficult near-term decisions – for USNH they are reflected in our return of 7% of the annual appropriation – while we work to preserve and even advance the long-term health of our institutions and state. As we at PSU planned for our portion of this return to the state, we placed students first, minimizing effects on their programs, and then employees, our human resources. To implement this reduction, we will be holding selected positions vacant, delaying position reclassifications, and postponing scheduled renovations. And a community of dedicated faculty and staff will ensure that Plymouth State continues to offer a first-rate education.

All of you understand that higher education is an economic driver for this state’s economy. As the regional comprehensive university of USNH, with approximately 7000 undergraduate and graduate students, PSU offers excellent teaching informed by research and creative activity and marked by engagement with the region. We provide workforce development; programs for graduate education and professional advancement; and partnerships for economic development. In each role, PSU has a special responsibility to NH’s Lakes Region and North Country. Let me offer a few examples of how PSU students, faculty, and staff fulfill that mission, focusing today on economic issues:

  • Responding to NH’s needs for well-educated professionals in specific fields. Innovative programs in Environmental Science and in Tourism Management have been developed with NH’s agencies, non-profits, and businesses; and a campus series, Live, Work, and Innovate in Rural New Hampshire, brings NH business leaders to meet and explore opportunities with students who then can envision productive careers here in the state.
  • Supporting the business community. Students working through PSU’s nationally ranked Small Business Institute have offered real solutions to real problems for over 300 locally owned NH businesses, saving one business half a million dollars.
  • Bringing people together to positively impact communities. The Center for Rural Partnerships works to improve the economy and quality of life in rural New Hampshire, hosting symposia about sustainable economies, facilitating meetings about the future of Coos County, and creating alliances for cultural preservation projects.
  • Drawing dollars to New Hampshire. Plymouth State’s meteorology program, Judd Gregg Meteorology Institute, and Center for the Environment have received federal support to allow students and faculty to study traffic patterns, weather prediction systems, road salt run-off and more, improving the safety of NH’s roads and drinking water.
  • Supporting NH’s emerging green economy. Langdon Woods Residence Complex, which achieved the LEED Gold standard for energy efficiency, has made PSU a leader in sustainable architecture. In its first year of operation, Langdon Woods saved nearly $250,000 in energy costs, a 58% reduction over conventional buildings, and 1.4 million gallons of water – all with techniques that can aid NH businesses.

PSU has been actively working on cost containment through restructuring such as one-stop shopping for business functions and the addition of on-line billing, and energy efficiencies such as remodeling Mary Lyon Residence Hall, which reopened in 2007 with a 40-50% improvement in energy efficiency. PSU has added the Frost School to increase opportunities during the winterim and summer sessions, as well as to provide more evening and weekend courses for NH students.

Plymouth State’s greatest economic contribution, however, is also our core mission: the innovative, entrepreneurial, well-educated citizens who are critical to New Hampshire in the 21st century. Many of our undergraduates are first-generation college students whose families are disproportionally impacted by the current economic situation, and we are increasing our scholarships and financial aid to maintain accessibility and affordability.

I, too, appreciate the state’s appropriation and your commitment to education. I welcome the chance to discuss issues with you, NH’s policy makers, as we are doing today, recognizing that we want to be part of the near-term solution for New Hampshire, but with the understanding that continued reductions threaten quality and affordability. We want to be part of the long-term solution for the state as well: our engaged USNH institutions must play a key role in NH’s future.