EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

April 8, 2013

Column: Eliminating university sabbaticals would keep tuition costs down

If you were running a business, how much would you pay your employees not to show up for work?

When the employer in question is the University System of New Hampshire (USNH), the answer is almost $65 million over the past 10 years.

In this case, we’re not talking about paid time off for vacation, earned by the employee, or other typical situations, such as maternity leave or sick time. Instead, these are the salary and benefit costs paid to professors at the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University and Keene State College when they take a paid sabbatical. This represents time that these state university professors are not in classrooms or labs, teaching our students, yet they add to the ever-growing cost of higher education, which is rapidly becoming more unaffordable each year.

The working families of New Hampshire are struggling to find ways to pay for the cost of college, at a time when our state system charges among the highest amounts in the country for “in-state” students. At a time when the university system leadership has asked for a considerable increase in taxpayer subsidies, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation felt it was critical to look into the higher education system to try to understand what are some of the cost drivers that contribute to the rapidly increasing price for our public colleges.

Accordingly, through a series of Right to Know requests, AFPF learned that since 2004, New Hampshire university system professors have taken 178 yearlong sabbaticals and 743 part-year sabbaticals. This represents 550 years worth of paid time off provided by the tuition of the students and the taxpayers of New Hampshire. At a time when officials have publicly made, and continue to make, a loud case for higher tuitions and increased state funding, one has to wonder if this practice represents the best use of instructors’ time.

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