It was during the summer of 2011 when the N.H. Legislature cut the state’s funding to the University System of New Hampshire nearly in half for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
The move was not only a blow to a state already ranked last in the nation in per capita funding for public higher education, it rocked the students and staff of the system’s central office and its four institutions to their cores.
The colleges compensated for the reduced state funding by increasing in- and out-of-state tuition and fees, as well as taking other belt-tightening measures.
But while those measures were being taken, some University System administrators, directors and deans continued to receive bonuses ranging from just above $100 to tens of thousands of dollars. They include seven from Keene State College in fiscal year 2012, and 13 in fiscal year 2013.
Jay V. Kahn, vice president for finance and planning, said the bonuses are performance-related and one-time payments. They are recommended by supervisors, and are usually associated with the completion of particular assignments. Kahn, who received a bonus, served as interim president of the college in 2012-13.
For context, Keene State has 550 to 600 full-time employees, he said. Even accounting for the higher number of bonuses awarded during fiscal years 2004-13, that’s about 0.2 percent of employees, he said.
Those who received bonuses included Lynne Andrews, director of recreational and intramural sports; Kevin Breslend, senior information technology manager; James Carley, associate director of residential life; Kent Drake-Deese, director of residential life; James Draper, manager of campus purchasing; Nona Fienberg, dean of arts and humanities; Jennifer Ferrell, director of student involvement; President Helen Giles-Gee; Human Resources Director Kimberly Harkness; Karen House, associate vice president for business services; Jana Jacobson, assistant director of residential life; Maryann Lindberg, vice president for institutional advancement; Emile Netzhammer, provost and vice president for academic affairs; Andrew Robinson, associate vice president for academic affairs; and Melinda Treadwell, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, according to payment information obtained by The Sentinel.
Not all of those officials are still employed by the college.
The system’s four institutions are Granite State College, Keene State College, Plymouth State University and the University of New Hampshire.
The budget battles with the state continue today, with the University System’s Board of Trustees voting to end a two-year tuition freeze for in-state students with a raise of 2.75 percent. Although a budget for the next two-year cycle still hasn’t been adopted, lawmakers have proposed funding only $81 million of the $90 million system officials requested for 2016.
The bonuses Keene State officials received during fiscal years 2012 and 2013 ranged from $123 to $28,592, and were classified as either for performance, taking on an acting appointment, or as a “trans payment.”
However, the number of bonuses awarded at Keene State College during that time were less than the 17 awarded in fiscal year 2008 and the 16 given in fiscal year 2005, according to the payment information.
College officials awarded 11 bonuses in fiscal year 2009, eight in fiscal year 2004, and six each in fiscal years 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011.
While operating and professional, administrative and technical staff at Keene State are eligible for bonuses, faculty are not. They have a collective bargaining agreement through the Keene State College Education Association.
According to the payment information, a total of 576 bonuses were awarded to employees in the positions of deans or directors and above at the university system and its four institutions from fiscal years 2004-13.
Of the bonuses awarded for fiscal years 2004-13, 265 went to University of New Hampshire staff, 96 to Keene State College, 94 to the University System of New Hampshire’s offices, 85 to Plymouth State University and 36 to Granite State College.
The total value of the bonuses over those 10 fiscal years was $2,864,914, which would cover the tuition of about 268 New Hampshire students attending Keene State for the 2015-16 school year.
Of that amount, the University of New Hampshire accounted for $1,623,102, the University System of New Hampshire for $663,558, Keene State for $332,142, Granite State for $134,700 and Plymouth State for $111,412.
Tiffany Eddy, spokeswoman for the University System of New Hampshire, said the system receives less than 10 percent of its funding from state appropriations, and that funding offsets in-state tuition costs.
“In spite of the low funding, our institutions achieve remarkable results, including the highest public completion rates in the east and the lowest student loan default rates on any public system in the country,” she said.
University System institutions reward individual performance through “merit-based raises and targeted bonuses” to help achieve those results, she said.
“Those merit and bonus decisions are made at the individual campuses,” she said.