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College explores financial future

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By Carol A. Clark

A majority of operations at UNM-Los Alamos fall in the black column, financially speaking, but a couple hover in red and that’s something staff and advisory board members aim to change.

The group brainstormed extensively during a meeting in the campus lecture hall Monday evening. Discussion included the current trend of declining enrollment at the college coupled with the always dreaded course cancellations.

“What concerns me is we’ve had dropping enrollment at the rate of 10 percent a year for four years,” board member Nelson Hoffman told staff. “Let’s hope some of the outreach programs you all are doing will bear fruit next year.”

Interim Dean of Instruction Kate Massengale told the board that course cancellations of classes that fail to meet the minimum enrollment are very disappointing to students.

“A few people had three classes canceled this semester,” Massengale said.

In order to offer more courses and perhaps be able to afford continuing classes with fewer students, Campus Resources Director Lisa Clough brought up the idea of seeking a mill levy next year.

“Using current county property values, an increase of one mill for operational costs will generate close to $600,000,” Clough said. “The additional revenue would be earmarked for operational expenses ranging from faculty salary support to new focused programming initiatives related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) instruction.”

Board Secretary Marie Chiravalle expressed concern that enough time remains to prepare adequately for a mill levy election by February. “I’m a taxpayer, convince me to give you money,” she said to UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page.

Page mentioned several convincing needs such as being able to raise salaries for under-paid faculty and to attract other quality faculty by paying them what they’re worth.

The board approved 5-to-0 having staff look into a proposal to explore the idea of a mil levy and requested staff report back to them at a special July 14 meeting set specifically to discuss the mill levy.

In other business, the board approved its meeting schedule through May 2009. The schedule was approved 4-to-0; Hoffman arrived following the vote.

At the last board meeting, Chiravalle suggested having vendors include scholarship provisals in their bids.

She was delighted to hear that the college beverage contract terms out June 30 and the scholarship requirement was included in a joint RFP with Los Alamos Public Schools.

Massengale mentioned that the college is seeking community members who can teach subjects like how to write a blog, how to create a MySpace page and how to Wiki. These are subjects she is getting requests for, she said.

The next advisory board meeting is scheduled for July 14. The meeting is open to the public.