Testimony at House Finance Committee FY2012-13 Operating Budget Hearing

House Finance Committee FY2012-13 Operating Budget Hearing

22 February 2011
Legislative Office Building, Room 210

Testimony by Sara Jayne Steen, President
Plymouth State University

Thank you for the opportunity to address you today and for your work on behalf of New Hampshire, a commitment that is also ours.  I appreciate this opportunity to talk with you about Plymouth State University and the ways we work together with New Hampshire, specifically on behalf of workforce and economic development.

Plymouth State University is a regional comprehensive university of approximately 7500 students; we provide well-educated graduates, ongoing opportunities for graduate education and professional development, and partnerships for cultural enrichment and economic development.  We are stewards of place, with a special responsibility to the Lakes Region and North Country.  Like you, we believe in partnerships, we strive for excellence, and we are committed to making New Hampshire a better place to live, to learn, and to earn.

Faculty and staff members actively create programs to meet the state’s needs.  Recently, we have added tourism management, environmental science, and a doctor of education in learning, leadership, and community; expanded online and continuing education opportunities; and developed over 90 partnerships on behalf of NH schools, in, for example, science education. Between 2009 and 2011, new programs in Sales Leadership, Sports Management, and Nursing were developed.  These three programs alone will create 11.5 new fulltime jobs in Plymouth and generate $740,000 in earnings, which in turn will be spent in the region.

According to a recent economic development report, PSU contributes approximately $300M annually to New Hampshire’s economy, including $75M in payroll and direct expenditures and $150M in contributions to a skilled workforce.  PSU generates approximately $2.6M annually through grant support of research and innovation.

Let me provide two integrated examples of partnership.  In 2010, PSU opened the Savage Welcome Center and Hanaway Rink.  According to an independent economic report, that facility during construction brought $2.2M to the region.  More important is the projection that it will through increased visitation add 17 ongoing jobs and $2.3M annually to the local economy.

Positive changes create others.  The Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce relocated near the Welcome Center, and College of Business Administration students worked with members on projects such as the Plymouth Shop Local Program, increasing participating businesses by 49%.  The PSU Small Business Institute, which has won national awards the last 13 consecutive years, has helped hundreds of NH businesses transition to the next level, doing marketing research, business plans, and feasibility studies that, for example, kept one business located in NH, preventing the loss of 450 jobs and adding 30 others.  In 2010, the Small Business Institute, the College of Business Administration, and the Grafton County Economic Development Council (GCEDC) announced a partnership to develop a Business Incubator/Accelerator — the Business Enterprise Center at Plymouth — to be located near the Welcome Center and the Chamber of Commerce.  That is the synergy we hope for between PSU and our wider community, benefitting education with applied hands-on learning and benefitting economic development as well.

Another example begins with the Hanaway Rink, the first phase of the Center for Active Living, Learning, and Wellness (ALLWell) and part of a response to NH’s health care needs.  The rink allows for additional coursework in health and wellness; research on topics from childhood obesity to knee kinesiology in older adults; athletics and recreation; and community programming.  Athletic training students offer workshops for EMTs on the care of injuries on ice.  The Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities brings students to examine critical issues of rural health.  PSU is adding Nursing, a much needed contribution to workforce development.  In 2010, PSU received a biomedical grant of $1.5M from the National Institutes of Health through NIH’s INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) program.  One project is bringing students into NH’s senior centers, testing the likelihood of falls and offering remediation, reducing health care costs for NH and improving the quality of life for older adults.

The University’s motto is Ut prosim (That I may serve). Academic programs encourage student participation in service learning. Additionally, the Community Service Center is dedicated to providing outreach, connecting students, faculty, and staff with service opportunities in Plymouth and surrounding communities. In 2009, Plymouth State University was named to the President’s Learn and Serve America Honor Roll with Distinction, 1 of only 83 higher education institutions across the country. This program recognizes universities that support innovative and effective community service programs.

In 2010, PSU’s commitment to volunteerism and support of community efforts was recognized by the Carnegie Foundation. PSU has been added to the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. The classification indicates that teaching, learning, and research are done in collaboration with communities and enhance the well-being of the region through, for example, application of knowledge to economic development.  PSU (and UNH and KSC) are among only 311 institutions so recognized nationwide.  In 2010, PSU students volunteered more than 220,400 hours for an estimated value of more than $2.6M.

Public universities have a special responsibility to their communities, regions, and states, and PSU is actively engaged in fulfilling that responsibility.  Clearly there are challenges ahead.  For us, those include rising costs of health care and increases in student need for financial aid.  Many students and their families struggle financially, and forty per cent of PSU’s undergraduates this year are first-generation college students, those most likely to suffer from losses of state and federal funding.  We also strive to be excellent stewards of your and our students’ dollars, actively working on cost containment.

At an academic excellence ceremony this week, I spoke with a woman who, having lost a job, came to the University, found joy in learning, and after two semesters already has been offered a better position.  Education benefits the economy and transforms lives.  As educators, we teach the students who will be the workforce and the entrepreneurs and innovators for New Hampshire’s future.  In return on investment, in economic and in human terms, education creates more value than it costs.

Like my colleagues here today, I look forward to working in partnership with you to help meet the challenges that face our state and will be happy to answer any questions.  Thank you.


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