September 26, 2016 by Will VanOrder, THE ROUND UP
Several weeks ago, The Round Up offered students a brief overview of the $12.1 million in budget cuts occurring across the campus of New Mexico State University. These budget cuts affected nearly every facet of the university, with the colleges themselves being hit the hardest in some cases. After the latest meeting of the Business Advisory Council, the College of Business feels prepared to take on the task at hand. This is a report on how one college is utilizing its resources to help protect the future of their students, and of the university as a whole.
The Business Advisory Council — or B.A.C — is a community of NMSU college of business alumni or partners who are both financially and personally making an investment in the College of Business.
According to the College of Business website, “Members are asked to contribute a minimum of $500.00 per year….” This is the lowest level of sponsorship that a member can attain, with corporate levels in the thousands. The B.A.C is also heavily involved with Jim Hoffman, Dean of the College of Business. They serve as a panel to help discuss the issues and opportunities facing the college. According to their mission statement, they serve a variety of purposes as internal resources. The most relevant of these as of late is the act of advising the college on marketplace and educational needs.
Hoffman described the B.A.C as, “Alumni and people from the business community whose function is to serve in an advisory capacity for myself on a number of relevant topics….” However, in his short time as Dean, Hoffman has worked to make the Council more inviting for students to input their opinions on these very matters. “One of the primary focuses of that group is to interact with students…. We have a student town hall meeting where we (the B.A.C) meet with students to discuss issues in the college and try to come up with solutions to those issues.” These students are generally all from an upper division course, and the town hall will last anywhere between one to two hours.
The most recent town hall meeting took place on Wednesday, Sep. 15. During the meeting, Hoffman revealed that the primary focus was on the topic of recruitment and retention, with a special emphasis on retention. One of the Dean’s primary initiatives has been the mentorship program for freshman through the student ambassadors of the College of Business. “We’ve been working a lot on retention through decreasing class size and having our ambassadors mentor groups of five students… Retention of freshman aids the enrollment at New Mexico State University, and when we retain more students, that means we’re simultaneously helping the current financial situation.” Hoffman said that the college had worked vigorously to lower the class sizes of all entry-level BUSA and BCIS classes to an average of 40 students, compared to upwards of a hundred in previous semesters. “Minimizing the number of students in each class not only allows for more personal interaction, but it creates the opportunities for BCIS classes to spend more time in computer labs developing and practicing the skills they are being taught,” Hoffman explained.
“We’re also working on developing the programs we currently offer students, as well as focusing on getting our students to graduate on time,” Hoffman stated. The program he referred to is, as he described it, a cohort MBA program. The goal of this program is to offer additional programs which will generate tuition, which would then mean additional revenue. “We’re also simultaneously reducing the costs associated with these programs, which aids in the long term value of the college.” These programs are still being perfected according to Hoffman, who seemed very excited as he spoke about their potential revenue increase for the college.
Long term value is something that NMSU could definitely use more of. With attendance of New Mexico higher education institutions down across the board, universities across the state have been struggling to come up with solutions to the problem. According to the Albuquerque Journal, between 2014 and 2015 New Mexico led the nation in university attendance decline with an 8.3% drop in just one year. With a lower attendance and budget cuts due to state funding facing NMSU simultaneously, the B.A.C is working hard to ensure that their college can remain a profitable one for both students and the university as a whole
“The administration and the faculty care deeply for the students. We want to do everything in our power to make them successful. Talk is cheap, and I feel that our faculty are backing up that statement on a daily basis… It truly is a caring community.” The Business Advisory Council is only one of several alumni-based organizations that work for the betterment of the university. Based on the effort they are putting forth to ensure the long-term success of the college. Many of the colleges at New Mexico State University have similar organizations, but do not have the creative and student-integrative setup that the B.A.C provides. According to the NMSU factbook for the fall of 2015, the College of Business is currently the third largest college on campus for undergraduate students, but has the most developed strategies for involving their students in the happenings of the college.
The next B.A.C meeting is set to take place on April 27 & 28 of 2017, and Dean Hoffman is hopeful that the initiatives being put in action this semester will have tangible results by then. His goals are to not only deal with the current economic stresses of the college, but to emerge on the other side with long-term improvements for faculty and students alike. “We are trying to increase revenue through tuition while also giving students a great college experience,” Hoffman stated. “We’re trying to help students see how successful they can be with a degree from New Mexico State University.”
While only time will tell if the initiatives and programs the B.A.C is pushing for will be successful, Hoffman continues his personal fight to retain as many students as possible. He has made several visits to introduction classes, offering his personal phone number as a point of contact. The task of overcoming their portion of the budget cuts is intense, but the B.A.C seems to be trying to serve as a flagship for the other colleges, with dean Hoffman putting his best foot forward to keep the value of his College as high as possible.