UNM-LA tightens belt

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Education > School trims electives as proposed budget is set at $5.5 million

The advisory board for the University of New Mexico, Los Alamos campus as well as the school’s administration recently took a hard look at the school’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015,
Though the UNM-LA proposed budget for 2015 is a little leaner than the current year’s budget, it won’t be meaner, in that the school’s administration has managed to preserve all of the classes and services students will need to complete their degree programs.
“We have no plans to discontinue any degree or certificate programs we currently have listed in our roster.” Campus Director Dr. Cedric Page said. He also added that the school is currently pursuing grants that will help aid student performance, and that they will be trying new strategies to increase the enrollment numbers for next year.
UNM-LA’s approved budget last year was $5.9 million; this year’s proposed budget is $5.5 million. Though the advisory board put its stamp of approval on it Monday, it still has to go before the University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents for final approval sometime in the next 10 to 15 days.
“We will be focusing on increasing our enrollment, by doing more targeted outreach and recruitment. In other words, we will be showing up at some of the college fairs and venues where we can access high school students,” Page said.
However, the administration also acknowledged that cuts were made. At a UNM-LA Advisory meeting Monday, it was revealed the school’s administration had cut 19 percent of the school’s classes it’s offering in the fall as opposed to the number of classes the school offered last year at the same time.
The cuts were made in order to anticipate a downturn in revenues. The downturn is due to a discontinuance of some key grants, as well as the fact that UNM-LA did not get a hoped-for financial boost from a proposed tax-levy increase last year.
Last year, the school asked Los Alamos residents to vote “yes” by ballot for a 2 mil property tax increase that would directly go toward annual support the school’s proposed expansion of classes and programs. The measure failed, with 2,908 being against the measure and 2,662 being for it. If the levy passed, then the school would have received annually $1.5 million a year.
School officials emphasized however that even with the reduction, students will still be able to pursue any degree they choose, as the classes that were cut were considered nonessential or redundant.
“Some classes will be postponed and offered in the Spring, some classes will have fewer times to run, such as English 101 or some of the more popular math programs,“ said Cindy Rooney, UNM-LA’s Dean of Instruction.
Whether a class was popular or not was also a factor in their decision-making process.
For instance, German, Greek and Latin were cut this semester, as well as photography, she added.
Rooney said the cuts were thought over very carefully, so as not to endanger any of their degree programs.
“Even though the number of classes were reduced significantly, it was a very strategic reduction in classes to continue to try and continue to meet the needs of students as they continued forward in their degree programs.”
The administration also has increased the student cap in their online classes from 25 to 35 to make up for the decrease, which will hopefully serve to stabilize and improve enrollment.
In response to the enrollment issue, UNM-LA Advisory Board Chairman Steve Boerigter said at the meeting it was now more important than ever that they and the administration prioritize enrollment with every budget decision they make.
“With the failure to pass the mil levy, this should not be a surprise to anybody here. It should not be a surprise to anybody that UNM-LA is fighting for it’s life, and it’s life depends on students. Every financial decision we make, down to the third significant figure in every single category has to have a measure on it. If I move an extra $50 over here instead of over there, how do I articulate how that will affect how many students will be enrolled in my campus next spring next fall and the year after that?”’ he said to the board. “If we are not able to increase our student enrollment, we will be choked to death.”