UNM-LA forges ahead with plans

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Education > University looks to maintain its status quo

By Tris DeRoma

While the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos did not get the funds from taxpayers to support and expand its programs this year, campus officials are still optimistic things are going to turn out well.

At a recent meeting, campus Director Dr. Cedric Page, and members of the community college’s advisory board discussed the outcome of a town-wide vote that took place in September. The vote was for a 2-mil tax levy, funds from which would have allowed the school to expand its reach into the community as well as end its reliance on finite funding for a number of academic programs.

But, Los Alamos residents voted down the measure 2,908 to 2,662.

Page said the meeting was mostly about analyzing the vote and deciding upon a general direction. They compared the vote to the same attempt made in 2010, as well as the vote earlier this year where residents approved Los Alamos Public Schools’ second $20 million bond for the reconstruction of Aspen Elementary School and other district projects.

One observation they made was that the voters were similar in profile in terms of party affiliation and age. They also observed the LAPS bond vote had a 6,300 voter turnout where the September UNM-LA vote had about a thousand less.

“The age group where they had a little bit more turnout percentage was in the 40 to 49 year age group,” Page said. “Those are folks that have kids in the schools, and so you would expect there’d be more interest and concern among that age group about the environments their kids were in.”

They also heard anecdotal testimony, comments and evidence that one reason some voters didn’t okay the levy was because of some misperceptions they had about the school. Page said it was found some voters had confused the school’s plan to expand its infrastructure with the county’s plan, and voters apparently weren’t for the county. They also thought the school was too involved in serving students outside Los Alamos over the needs of the local student population.

“I guess they did fail to take into consideration that we did close our Bernalillo operation and that we were serving close to 50 percent of the residents,” Page said.

“They also thought we should be charging a higher tuition for folks who did not live in Los Alamos County.”

As for changes to the university’s future plan, Page said they did a little brainstorming, but will not have any definite numbers or direction until their next meeting in November. “We will have more specifics the when it comes to timetables and metrics that we want to use for enrollment and retention goals,” Page said.

As far as the programs they have in place such as their Fire Science degree program, Page said they are going to be maintaining the status quo, noting that funding for many of the programs won’t be up for another year or so. The grants for some of the programs won’t be tapering off for about a year and half, he said, giving them time to replace the grants with other sources of funding before the due date.

“We are in good shape financially this year,” Page said.

Another bright spot Page noted was the state’s new funding formula. He said even though the formula isn’t entirely in place yet, the school has been doing quite well on a couple of factors the state uses to measure academic performance.

Those factors include completion of courses, graduation rates, and the number of students enrolled in dual-credit courses.

Page said since these factors are something the school is excelling in, the new education funding formula should reward the school, he said.