State University System Chancellor Todd Leach cites several factors behind cost-cutting measures at Keene State College.
Besides declining enrollment and competition, he says there was a perception that Keene State was in fiscal trouble due to a cut in state funding in 2010.
“We can look and see the numbers drop there,” he said on The Exchange.
“And I think that really has as much to do with perception as it did anything else. I think the message from guidance counselors was, ‘Well, they may be in financial trouble, I’m not sure if you want to go there.’ And that was the wrong message because that’s a small part of our overall budget."
Keene State is the process of identifying $5.5 million in savings. To get there, it is offering faculty and staff buyouts. And there could be limited layoff in 2018.
Leach says that Keene State, while hitting its budget targets, is in the process of "right-sizing." The University System of New Hampshire has deployed some of its staff, including human resources, to assist Keene State during this process.
The challenge of declining enrollment and changing demographics is a familiar one for colleges and universities in New Hampshire and around New England.
Leach joined New England College President Michele Perkins and Colby-Sawyer College President Susan Stuebner on The Exchange to discuss the market demands.
Perkins says student development and recruitment is ongoing and evolving.
“There has been significant decline in the North, and so we look elsewhere to enroll students,” she said.
Stuebner, a leader of a similar private college, says about 40 percent of the students are from New Hampshire.
“We’ve definitely seen that we have to cast the net wider,” she says.
As Leach notes, colleges and universities are also competing with out-of-state colleges, some with attractive scholarship and student aid packages.
In response to a caller’s question about affordability, Leach highlighted a national scorecard that ranks colleges and universities. He says USNH offers the lowest cost of residential tuition in the state.
Stuebner and Perkins said their colleges work to expand access and provide financial aid to students.
“Access is a really important part of what we do, and so we have devoted a lot of resources to financial aid,” Stuebner says.