Board of Regents: New programs introduced, future budget disappoints

Mar. 12, 2009 by Andi Murphy NMSU Round Up

Spirits were high when Susan Brown gave a presentation on the success of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach programs. Things turned gloomy when Waded Cruzado told the Board of Regents about the future budget at their meeting Monday.

Brown, director of STEM Outreach for the Institute for Excellence in Math and Science Education, reported to the regents their STEM programs, Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Aerospace Academy (SEMAA), Gadsden Math Initiative and Scaling up Mathematics Achievement (SUMA) and the Academy for Young Scientists are showing noticeable results.

With a PowerPoint presentation, Brown pointed out the programs have involved about 100,000 students so far in about 32 schools and 25 more on a waiting list to get involved with the STEM outreach programs. The students involved are doing better on their test scores and are more interested in math and science than students who are not involved. These achievements also do justice to the NMSU land-grant status and should continue to be a working entity in the university, Brown said.

“We’re recruiting at a very young age and we’re going to keep them until NMSU,” Brown said.

The STEM programs get support from grants and mathematically/scientifically connected communities. Brown was enthusiastic to say to a pleased crowd that their programs didn’t need any funding from the university and they are doing well on grant money.

The applause for the STEM presentation stopped when Interim President Cruzado got up to read a report from Ricardo Rel, director of NMSU government affairs, who is in Santa Fe amid the 60-day legislative session. They are dealing with two budgets, for fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

New Mexico is in a $454 million revenue “short fall” for the 2009 fiscal year, based on a December 2008 revenue estimate, Cruzado said reading the report. The bills that were passed, to reduce the deficit, put all New Mexico higher education budgets down 2.5 percent.

The Legislative Finance Committee and the Department of Finance and Administrations estimate New Mexico will have a $575 million revenue downturn in 2010 and the years to come are only going to have bigger deficit numbers. The House of Representatives has already passed a bill that reduces higher education budgets by an average of 2.4 percent for the 2010 fiscal year. But they only reduced NMSU’s budget by .9 percent because NMSU has a big workload and retention rate.

This trend might force NMSU to raise student tuition in the future as a result of changes in tuition credit. Tuition could be raised, but issues are still being weighed and proposed and no action has been taken. These bills affecting the NMSU 2010 fiscal year have to go through the Senate first for approval ater the session.

NMSU’s budget reduction is small, 2.5 and proposed 2.4 percent, compared to neighboring universities, whose budgets have already declined by the double digits, Cruzado said.

“We’re doing a wonderful job,” Cruzado said about handling the budget. “The people there in Santa Fe represent New Mexico State University very well.”

In order to decrease the deficit for the upcoming years, funding for certain programs were cut and would have to be cut in the future. Equipment and renewal was cut by 50 percent and athletics and special programs, like educational television, funding will be cut by 6.3 percent. All state institutional building renewal and replacement was reduced by $1 million.

Since oil and gas tax revenue is declining in the U.S., state money is just not as abundant as it was, Rel said. “A lot of it is really due to the economy.”

But the session is not over. There are still 10 days left of the legislative session and then the Senate needs to approve any bills approved by the legislature.

“There are still a few more things that need to happen,” Rel said.


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