New Hampshire colleges, universities emphasize economic impact, jobs

Economic Indicators Associated Press

New Hampshire's colleges and universities say their latest report shows that they are major contributors to the state's vibrant economy.

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The New Hampshire College and University Council estimates that its 22 public and private nonprofit institutions directly supported 17,800 jobs in fiscal year 2012-13 and generated an estimated economic impact of $5.8 billion.

Council President Tom Horgan says he appreciates the effort state lawmakers are making to restore funding for higher education, but he also hopes they will find money in the next budget for scholarships to encourage New Hampshire students to stay in their home state for college.

"We need to start thinking about ways to help advance our higher education institutions and assist New Hampshire students in funding their college experience," he said.

New Hampshire is the only state that doesn't pay for such scholarships from its general fund, and it ranks last in state funding for higher education in general. State money makes up less than 10 percent of the operating budgets at the four public institutions that make up the University System of New Hampshire. After the Legislature slashed funding for the university system several years ago, Gov. Maggie Hassan has made restoring the money a priority. The funding she proposed in January for the university system, however, is $24 million less than it requested.

According to the council's report, colleges and universities contribute to the state's economy in a variety ways, including as major employers, as visitor destinations and as leaders of high-level construction projects. The report also notes that unlike most not-for-profit organizations, the state's nonprofit schools are not exempt from property taxes. Together, they paid more than $13 million in taxes on non-educational properties in 2012-2013, mostly on dining halls and dormitories.

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The 22 schools have combined operating budgets of $2.2 billion, and pay $1.2 billion in salaries, wages and benefits. In addition to the 17,800 direct jobs, they indirectly support an additional 8,800 jobs, the report said.