Testimony at Senate Finance Committee FY2012-13 Operating Budget Hearing

Senate Finance Committee FY2012-13 Operating Budget Hearing

18 April 2011
State House, Room 103

Testimony by Sara Jayne Steen, President
Plymouth State University

Thank you for this opportunity to address you about Plymouth State University and the ways we at PSU work together with New Hampshire. Today I will specifically address workforce and economic development.

Plymouth State University is a regional comprehensive university of approximately 7500 students. We provide excellent teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels; research that emphasizes real-world solutions to real-world problems; and partnerships for cultural enrichment and economic development. We are stewards of place, with a special responsibility to the Lakes Region and North Country of New Hampshire. We are committed to making New Hampshire a better place to live, to learn, and to earn.

Good universities are not ivory towers set apart, above the fray. Today, technology is changing the way that education is offered; the social contract for public higher education is threatening to unravel ever more quickly from the effects of a global economic recession; and innovation, collaboration, and partnership will be increasingly important if New Hampshire is to thrive. Higher education is linked with economic stability and even prosperity, but the higher education of the future also will require alliances, and people at PSU are actively creating them.

Faculty and staff members are creating dynamic, flexible programs to meet the state’s workforce needs, programs that are high in academic quality and delivered cost effectively. Recently, PSU has added programs in tourism management and policy, environmental science and policy, and a doctor of education in learning, leadership, and community. PSU has expanded online and continuing education opportunities; enhanced summer and winterim sessions for better use of facilities and more opportunities for students in some majors to complete degrees in three years; and developed over 90 partnerships on behalf of NH schools, in, for example, science education.

Between 2009 and 2011, new programs in Professional Sales Leadership, Sports Management (integrating health and business), and Nursing have been 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, the first part of PSU’s Center for Active Living, Learning, and Wellness (ALLWell), integrating teaching, research, athletics and community wellness, and economic development. 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 major 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 and accelerator — the Business Enterprise Center at Plymouth — to be located near PSU’s Welcome Center and the Chamber of Commerce. That is the synergy we hope for between PSU and New Hampshire, benefitting education with engaged learning and benefitting economic development as well. The graduate student who developed the business plan for the Enterprise Center has received a national award for academic excellence, and tomorrow evening PSU will receive the 2010 Grafton County Economic Development Council’s Partner of the Year Award for this incubator project that “will enhance the entrepreneurial culture and development of central New Hampshire” (letter from Executive Director Mark Scarano).

Another example begins with the Hanaway Rink, the first phase of ALLWell Center and part of PSU’s response to NH’s health care needs. The rink allows for additional coursework in health and wellness; for athletics and recreation; and for 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, such as childhood obesity or obstacles to activity. 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 and their research into NH’s senior centers, testing the likelihood of falls and offering balance training, ultimately 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. The Community Service Center is dedicated to providing outreach, connecting students, faculty, and staff with service opportunities in Plymouth and surrounding communities. Students work with faculty in the Center for Rural Partnerships, the Center for the Environment, the Institute for New Hampshire Studies, and the Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities on projects that benefit organizations and the region.

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 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. 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 the first in their families to attend college, and those students are most likely to suffer from losses of state and federal funding. We strive to be excellent stewards of your and our students’ dollars, actively working on cost containment and delivery of academically excellent and cost effective programs.

I hope you can speak with students like those here today. The USNH appropriation is New Hampshire’s recognition that our democracy and our economy will depend on accessible, affordable education. Higher education benefits the economy and transforms lives. In return on investment, in economic and in human terms, education creates more value than it costs.

I look forward to working with you to help meet the challenges that face New Hampshire and will be happy to answer any questions. Thank you.