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|It's Time to Step Up|
|Published Wednesday, August 8, 2012|
The University of NH contributes more than $1.4 billion to the state’s economy every year. That’s worth repeating—$1.4 billion. And that’s UNH alone. That was the big reveal at a recent press lunch with UNH President Mark Huddleston and Joseph Morone, president of and CEO of Albany International Corp. in Rochester.
Huddleston announced an economic analysis of the school’s contribution that also showed UNH generates $791 million in revenue and contributes another $642 million to the state by creating a skilled labor pool. Morone was there to argue that a robust and vibrant higher education sector is vital to the state’s economy and its ability to attract companies like his to move to NH and expand here. Albany International is moving its corporate headquarters from New York, building a new facility, and planning to add several good-paying tech and manufacturing jobs. And the reason Morone says he chose NH is, after speaking with economic development folks with the state, Morone received calls from Huddleston and Gov. John Lynch within hours to assure him it would be the right move and the infrastructure to train workers was already in place. The $19 million federal grant that the Community College System of NH received for advanced manufacturing training—part of which is benefitting Albany—certainly helped.
Yet, in its actions, NH continues to send a message that we do not value education enough. Last summer, the NH Legislature eliminated the Post Secondary Education Commission, ended state aid for scholarships, and slashed funding for public colleges and universities. The University System of NH saw its state funding cut by 49.6 percent and the Community College System of NH’s dropped by 71.8 percent between the 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 bienniums. And not a legislative session goes by without a fight over how we should fund education at the K-12 level. We rank in the bottom nationally for funding higher education, and our college graduates carry the highest debt loads in the country. It is shameful.
We don’t take the role education plays in our economy seriously. If we did, we would be working harder to commit to funding education at all levels instead of using it as a political kick ball. The business community must do a better job at driving home the message to the Legislature that we need a skilled workforce to grow and we need to give people the tools to create their own opportunities. Otherwise, we will end up with a generation that is unskilled and unprepared to make a genuine contribution to our state. That will mean the only thing they will be prepared to take on, apparently, is running for office.
Matthew J. Mowry
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