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UNM-LA reaches its financial limits

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By The Staff

University of New Mexico - Los Alamos Campus is a valued asset to the community in that we provide an affordable, quality education for a diverse population of students.  UNM-LA holds the promise and dedication of promoting learning opportunities that will help students create hope for a brighter future. We at UNM-LA make the college experience exciting and rewarding with small classes, leading edge studies, a flexible schedule to fit your lifestyle, good resources, student activities and advisement throughout coursework.

 As a community college we provide a strong and effective curricula in: liberal arts, fine arts, humanities, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Our existing programs are broad and varied designed to expand educational opportunities for everyone. The traditional student who wishes to start a college career with an associate’s degree, or develop a path to a bachelor’s or graduate degree, the non-traditional student who returns to school to finish a high school diploma or develop a fast track certification into the workforce; the continuing education student who wants to explore different fields of study or learn the English language or take a few courses to gain skills that will lead to a new job or promotion – whatever the choice we are here for our students.

Through our partnerships with Los Alamos National Security (applied technology degree), the Department of Energy and the New Mexico Environment Department  (environmental science degree) and the New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts (professional certificate program in medical and court multilingual interpreting and translation), we provide one of a kind courses that are first in their class.

In addition, we offer community education courses and provide dual credit courses for our high school students, and a summer children’s college for elementary grades first through sixth. New Mexico Public Education Department has mandated all high school students must take a dual credit, advanced placement or online class beginning with the class of 2012. The present high school freshman class and every class thereafter will need to fulfill this requirement in order to graduate. This mandate specifies that colleges are not allowed to charge tuition. UNM-LA will see an increase in high school students over the next several years and the college will have to absorb the cost.

As a continuing viable college we must remain on a competitive level by expanding our programs to fit the changing needs of a fast developing technological society. Our community has expressed a desire for the development of innovative and vibrant courses and we are committed to their desire.  However, new courses to fit the needs of the student population will require a highly qualified and responsive staff and the replacement of hardware, software, equipment and technology. Unfortunately, the state funding formula provides no support to develop new programs or any of their needs.

Adverse forces beyond our control have driven UNM-LA to a really difficult and unfortunate financial situation. We have had to sustain a reduction in State Appropriations due to a shift in enrollment and a lag in formula funding for the workload. Even though our enrollment has increased over the last five semesters we will not realize revenue for another two years.  A legislative budget rescission in FY 2009 of 3.5 percent and  FY 2010 has an anticipated 5 percent reduction and an under funded mandate without reimbursement. We have tried to maintain through management decisions rather than seek public support by implementing class cancellations, shifting from core faculty to adjunct instructors, cutting back and downsizing staff and forcing redeployment to cover critical areas without compensation while crucial vacant positions go unfilled. Tutoring services depend on volunteers.  Programs like the Children’s College have been eliminated. Auxiliary services have been outsourced. Faculty members supply their own instructional supplies.

With these measures taking effect we feel we have done all that we can do.

In a follow up column I will discuss our operational revenue sources and the impact a two-mil levy increase will have on the homeowners.