April 5, 2010 by Jon Blazak NMSU Round Up
The New Mexico State University Board of Regents approved an approximate $600 increase in yearly student costs at a special budget meeting Thursday.
The tuition increase will take effect next year, and came as a result of cuts in state funding.
“We live in a world with a weird and unfortunate state funding formula and that forces universities to raise tuition,” Regent Javier Gonzales said.
Some regents said raising tuition was not the favorite option for balancing the budget, but ultimately the board decided it was the only way to keep NMSU competitive and growing. Others, including student regent Chis Anaya who voted against the tuition increase, disagree.
“With this budget, I think this is too high [of an increase] and I can’t accept,” Anya said at the Board of Regents meeting.
What Students Can Expect
The Board of Regents voted Thursday to increase the cost of meal plans and housing by 3 percent and parking permits by 4.5 percent. Tuition will be increased by 8 percent. Student fees are to remain flat for the next year. Altogether, the average on-campus resident will pay $600 more per year, Taylor explained.
Many at the meeting recognized $600 may be difficult for many students to pay. NMSU President Barbara Couture said the university will focus on increasing merit-based scholarship opportunities to help offset the additional costs.
“Students come first,” Couture said. “We will ensure that there are increased scholarship and employment opportunities available for students when they come back in the fall.”
Couture also said the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship will cover the increase in tuition, shielding some students from added costs. According to the Office of Financial Aid, approximately 25 percent of the student body is on the lottery scholarship. However, Anaya cautioned against justifying increases with the lottery scholarship.
“Freshmen only get the bridge scholarship, I think we need to remember this when we talk about impact [of the tuition increase] on students,” Anaya said.
University officials pointed out that even with all the increases, NMSU still remains less expensive than peer institutions.
“This [budget] will leave us below the median of our peers,” Taylor said.
Departments Face Cuts
The tuition increase is not the only measure the university is taking to balance the budget. Departments also face funding cuts of 4 percent. Couture said departments have been asked to identify and rank operating activities from essential to optional. Couture also said the 4 percent is an average of all departments, some could see more and some less. Couture said the departments that have already seen significant cuts may not see the 4 percent university cuts.
“The athletics department has already seen their budget reduced 10.5 percent by the state, such cuts will be considered when determining what the university cuts from their budget,” Couture said.
Couture said department heads must submit their budget reductions to the provost by April 30. More information on department cuts will be available after the budget reduction plans have been submitted and discussed, Couture said.
Jay Jordan, NMSU provost, said budget reductions and tuition increases will most likely prevent faculty reductions.
“I think we will be able to avoid layoffs,” Jordan said.
Faculty Cry Foul
While the regents who voted for the increase in tuition said it was the only viable budget solution, a group of faculty members disagree. The NMSU chapter of American Association of University Professors said the choice to increase tuition was rushed and unnecessary. Olga Viramontes and David Boje of the NMSU-AAUP Steering Committee released a statement to the Board of Regents, stating their beliefs.
“In short a rush to judgment, that increases tuition, and as a prelude to cuts to budgets for teaching and research, is a material change to faculty interests, student access to the institution, and the quality of their education,” Viramontes and Boje wrote.
The NMSU-AAUP also asserts that faculty was not given access to all the university budgets in their attempts to find a budget solution.
“Whereas the process, as yet, has not allowed sufficient transparent access of the entire faculty to the 222 page Budget Notebook of the University, or to the smaller notebooks for each college and unit,” the statement reads.
Regent Blake Curtis said he feels criticisms from the NMSU-AAUP and others who scrutinize the boards decisions are not founded in fact.
“For those who make disparaging comments, I would like to say they are misguided and misinformed,” Curtis said.
Jon Blazak is editor-in-chief and can be contacted at email@example.com.