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Advisory board responds to tough times

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Students could see a hike in tuition costs

By Kirsten Laskey

Hard times are upon higher education. At UNM-LA, this fact is being felt at full force. The two mil levy ballot question was defeated by voters in February; the state is proposing cutting 3.5 percent of its funding for higher education while considering asking two-year colleges and universities to raise their tuitions 9 percent and four-year college would raise tuitions 5 percent.

During the UNM-LA Advisory Board meeting Monday night, UNM-LA Executive Director Dr. Cedric Page said the proposed tuition increase is higher for two-year institutions than four-year colleges and universities because community colleges and branch campuses traditionally have lower tuitions. State Legislature, he said, was trying to keep things balanced.

Rather than running for the hills, the UNM-LA

advisory board is not going any where. Board members Marie Chiravalle, Ron Dolin and Micheline Devaurs discussed how to respond to these challenges.

What they decided is needed is more communication with the public.

“We don’t have anyone to go to,” Chiravalle said. “We don’t have a campus pool to go to; we don’t have community pool to go to. We’re going to need that.”

Having dealt with the election, she continued, people don’t seem to know what UNM-LA does and individuals don’t seem interested in the community college. One of the major things the college needs to address is public relations.

Devaurs added that during the election, people did not want their taxes to be increased. She noted the Los Alamos Public Schools was able to pass their

referendum, which allowed for an extension of a current bond, but just barely.

Chiravalle agreed with the state of economy the timing for the mil levy was wrong yet, “the fact of the matter is we are in trouble.”

She added UNM-LA needs to figure out how to get out of this trouble and garner community support.

To help get this work started, several current board members assumed new titles. Nelson Hoffman, who was absent at the meeting, was elected to be chairperson. Dolin is the board secretary. Both have held these positions in the past. Every March the board elects new officers.

Additionally, Devaurs and Hoffmann will serve on the finance committee and the community committee will be made up of Chiravalle and Dolin.

The board discussed how to fill the vacant seat, which Mike Wismer resigned from, and ultimately decided to keep the seat empty until the January 2011 election.

Chiravalle reported the board felt the pool of applicants was inadequate and with announcements on the radio and advertisements in the newspaper not churning up more interest, she wasn’t sure of where else to  go.

Page encouraged pitching the board seat at community forums and talking to colleagues.

Some people are taking notice in UNM-LA, particularly high school students enrolled at the college to take advantage of dual credit.

Kathryn Vigil, registrar, reported in the spring of 2009, 165 high school students enrolled for dual credit, which allows students to enroll in college level courses for high school and college credit. Of that group, 20-30 of them decided to continue on at UNM-LA as freshmen. The number of dual credit participants jumped this spring to 208.

“I think it’s been very successful statewide but for us we have accommodated the needs of students in Los Alamos and the other school districts that are participating as well,” Page told the Monitor Tuesday. “They can take classes … I think it’s been a tremendous opportunity for students to challenge themselves and get a head start on their post secondary education. It’s a great way to get a taste of what college is like and understand what the expectations are at the college.”

Page added many students start with one class and then progress to up to three courses.

Additionally, last spring 38 students enrolled in concurrent courses, or college level courses taken for college credit, Vigil reported. This year, the number of students enrolled in concurrent courses dropped to 14.

Cedric explained the reason behind the drop could be because students enrolled in concurrent classes are responsible for paying for books, course fees and other expenses. For dual credit classes, the student’s school covers the costs.

The board will meet again in April to approve the budget for next year.