Project Title:Public Higher Education Works for New Hampshire—Collaborative Advocacy InitiativeInstitution Name:University System of New Hampshire
Innovation Category:Accountability and Advocacy
Project Director:Stephen P. Barba, Executive Director of University Relations, Plymouth State University (representing the collaborative effort) Contact Information:(603) 535-2722 ,
Project Description:In summer the 2012 at the
request of its Board of Trustees, the four University System of New Hampshire
(USNH) members (University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University, Keene
State College and Granite State College) began a more active collaboration in
legislative advocacy aimed at restoration of a near 50% reduction in the
state’s appropriation to the System for operating budgets and a continuation of
support for capital projects. An associate vice chancellor for government
affairs had previously managed legislative dealings primarily through the
System’s central office. The new initiative, which formed a government and
communications council, required each institution—working autonomously and
collaboratively—to develop a robust network of supporters (alumni, donors,
businesses, community leaders, etc.) to impact state funding and other
legislation affecting the institutions.
- Build advocacy systems of New Hampshire citizens
and civic leaders to help promote the value of higher education to legislators
through development of a “grass roots” advocacy base.
- Create public awareness of legislative action
affecting public colleges and universities through media outreach: a series of
op-eds submitted by prominent business leaders, System board leadership, the
four campus presidents, and students from each institution; and a series of
strategic communications to varied constituencies driven to a web presence at
each institution for the campaign.
- The identification of legislation (culled from
700 to 1,200 “legislative service requests” in each year of the legislative
session) of interest to higher education, public higher education in
particular, or regarding a specific institution. A narrowed list of about 70
pieces of legislation was divided among the institutions for monitoring in the
legislature and system-wide follow-up and information sharing.
- Collectively, the four institutions recruited
more than 1,500 advocates (through web registrations, contact forms and phone
calls) to help reach out to elected officials, write editorials and letters to
the editor, appear at legislative hearings and public forums, or simply share
stories of support with friends and neighbors.
- College officials—presidents, vice presidents,
deans, directors, and students—met one-on-one with key legislators to build
awareness of the USNH advocacy efforts. One of the candidates running for
Governor included restoration of public higher education funding for USNH in
her successful campaign, and made it a key initiative of her first State of the
State address in January 2013.
- The 50% cut in state appropriation to USNH was
partially restored to 70% in FY 2014 and 84% in FY 2015 in the subsequent
- In the future, the USNH institutions plan to
continue building positive relationships with legislators and engaging citizens
in advocating for public higher education issues that arise in upcoming
Challenges/Problems Encountered:An election preceding the 50% reduction in the state
appropriation sent a large number of legislators to the capital whom argued
that higher education should not a high funding priority of state government.
New Hampshire has long been 50th in the nation in support for public higher
education, with on average only 13% of each school’s total budget funded by the
annual state appropriation prior to the historic 50% reduction. The USNH
institutions needed to build familiarity, confidence, and trust with the
legislators regarding the value higher education brings to the state’s economy
and to the state’s future.
Evaluation Approach:At key junctures of the advocacy campaign, the committee
reported back to the Board of Trustees through the chancellor’s office
regarding progress on the initiative. In addition to following results of key
legislation, the committee met once or twice weekly by telephone conference to
discuss legislative advocacy and to recommend strategies to engender
legislative and public support for public higher education in New Hampshire.
There are also regular email exchanges as information is shared on everything
from committee hearings to campus visits by legislators and other government
officials. The team especially coordinates the use of the System’s chancellor,
board chair and vice chair, the campus presidents, and other highly visible
Potential for Replication:
Some unique factors made this possible in New Hampshire:
- USNH was an established entity with the
legislature and the four state institutions have a history of collaboration so
working together was not an obstacle.
- New Hampshire is a small state where people tend
to know each other.
- The “Public Higher Education Works for NH”
campaign was a high priority for the board of trustees, the four presidents and
- The New Hampshire legislature has 424 elected
members, each receiving $100 per year for their public service. This leads to
fewer career politicians.
CEO-to-CEO Contact:Todd Leach
, Chancellor, University System of New Hampshiretodd.email@example.comDate Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014