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Some of N.H.'s wealthiest institutions are poised to benefit from the latest wave of federal earmarks

A rock engraved with "Southern New Hampshire University"
File Photo
Southern New Hampshire University, regarded as one of the fastest-growing colleges in the country, is in line to receive $650,000. According to its tax filing, SNHU took in $1.4 billion in revenue in 2020, including nearly $1 billion from tuition and fees and about $7 million in government grants.

One of the state’s wealthiest colleges, Southern New Hampshire University, and the state’s largest health care system, Dartmouth Hitchcock Health, both with more than $1 billion in total assets, are in line to receive a new wave of earmarked federal funding.

As part of the legislation signed by President Joe Biden to fund the federal government for this fiscal year, 74 New Hampshire organizations will share nearly $70 million coming from directed spending requests from the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation, primarily from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen earmarked $650,000 for Southern New Hampshire University, with $250,000 going toward a “Basic Needs Center,” which is tasked with helping students, faculty and staff experiencing food insecurity. Another $400,000 would pay for an assessment of the English language instruction needs for immigrants and refugees in Manchester and studying postsecondary opportunities for incarcerated individuals in the state. Money would be used to upgrade technology and supplies, to hire new staff and to support existing positions. Southern New Hampshire University, which has $1.1 billion in assets, already employs more than 10,000 people.

Another financial behemoth to receive directed federal funding is Dartmouth Hitchcock Health, which has $1.3 billion in assets. The health network, which is the state’s largest private employer, is in line to get about $1.5 million in federal funds. The biggest chunk – $1 million – will help pay for the expansion of the outpatient clinic at the Manchester campus to extend Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth services in the state. Another $448,000 will go towards establishing a “Center for Advancing Rural Health” to address persistent health disparities in rural communities.

The list of recipients includes government agencies and non-profits, some large, some small.

Colby Sawyer College is in line for $1.5 million to help construct a new building to house its expanded Nursing and Health Sciences program. St. Anselm College and Catholic Medical Center will receive $2 million to help build a 13,000 square foot healthcare simulation training facility on Manchester’s Westside. Sullivan County will receive $2 million to renovate its nursing home and expand its square footage by 50%.

At the other end of the funding scale, a Manchester substance abuse treatment center will get $25,000 to put towards its outreach services.

Some of the recipients are among the state’s wealthiest institutions.

At SNHU, Assistant Vice President of Community Impact Steve Theil said the university applied for the funds to assist with student needs, despite the school’s economic stability.

“It made sense for us to just throw in an application and see if that would be supported,” Theil said. “And we’re quite thankful to Senator Shaheen and her staff for arguing for it on our behalf.”

Regarded as one of the fastest-growing colleges in the country, SNHU took in $1.4 billion in revenue in 2020, including nearly $1 billion from tuition and fees and about $7 million in government grants, according to the non-profit institution’s tax-exempt filing with the federal government. In the same year, the university spent more than $144 million on advertising. Its payroll was topped by President Paul Leblanc, who was paid $1,243,881. In all, the school had 375 employees who made more than $100,000 in 2020.

Using the school’s application to create a Basic Needs Center as an example, the actual idea is still taking shape. School officials expect it will be in conjunction with the university’s existing food insecurity initiatives like “The Cupboard,” which provides a reliable source of food and basic needs for students, faculty and staff in the SNHU community, as it has been operating since 2017.

“The students who are on campus are having a harder time persisting, in part because there are a wider set of needs that young people are facing,” Theil said. “Food insecurity being a huge one of them,” Theil said.

The university has not yet received the funding for the project, but hopes to get it in the coming weeks. This has caused planning to halt, as officials don’t know how the center will function yet and what exact resources they will house. Theil said the university might have different locations for the center so it can help as many SNHU community members as possible.

“We want the vision to be as low-barrier as possible, so even right now a student has to reach out to a staff member to access the Cupboard,” Theil said. “It should be a no-questions-asked situation.”

The college said it couldn’t simply give hungry students greater access to its dining halls because its food services are run by a third party.

In a statement, Shaheen said food insecurity remains a serious challenge in New Hampshire that grew worse during the pandemic.

“Many college students acutely experience the food crisis, which hurts their ability to study and learn – that’s why I fought to secure $250,000 to increase access to food at SNHU,” Shaheen said. “As a senior appropriator who helps write government funding legislation each year, ensuring every Granite Stater has access to nutritious food will continue to be a priority.”

Shaheen, who chairs the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, and her staff had no comment on federal funding going to large-financially stable institutions like SNHU as opposed to other organizations that have more significant financial needs.

By contrast, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord received $348,000 to replace its 92 planetarium seats that were installed in 1990 with new adjustable seating to provide a better view of presentations on the center’s overhead domed screen. The funds would also go toward replacing their old projectors with newer, more energy-efficient models.

The discovery center, which is open to the public and offers educational programs focusing on astronomy, aviation, earth sciences and space exploration, reported about $660,000 in annual income compared to $1.4 billion in annual revenue for SNHU and $1.5 billion for Dartmouth Hitchcock Health.

In total, Shaheen secured $62.5 million in directed earmarks, with another $6.2 million secured by Representatives Ann McLane Kuster and Chris Pappas, for various projects within police departments, higher education, and an array of other institutions.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information

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