Colleges look closely at their budgets

By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

CLOVIS — Colleges and universities in New Mexico that experienced drops in enrollment may not be penalized, according to New Mexico Higher Education Department Secretary Beverlee McClure.

The Department is considering a provision that would shelter college and
university budgets for one year, according to higher education officials
who met Friday at the Clovis Community College.

“We would hold funding at the same level and the institutions would have
to earn back money,” McClure told representatives from five regional
colleges who attended the meeting.

Clovis Community College is one of five institutions that experienced
enrollment declines last year. Others include Western New Mexico
University at Silver City, Eastern New Mexico University’s Ruidoso campus,
University of New Mexico’s Los Alamos campus and the New Mexico Junior
College at Hobbs.

McClure said a task force would recommend the provision to the New Mexico
Legislature in the next few weeks.

Under the provision, budgets for the five institutions would be kept
intact, and the institutions would have access to the money as enrollment
increased.

“Institutions would be working against the deficit,” she said.
The impact of such a provision would be minimal, McClure told Freedom
Newspapers. About $6 million would be needed to protect the budgets, she
said.

Representatives from Clovis Community College, Eastern New Mexico
University, New Mexico Junior College, New Mexico Military Institute and
Mesalands Community College attended Friday’s Higher Education Department
meeting.

The meeting was held primarily to allow institutions to share their fiscal
needs with officials from the Department, which lobbies the legislature on
their behalf.

Problems with the state’s funding formula have been highlighted as
institutions statewide have struggled to hold onto their funding, McClure
told Freedom Newspapers.

The formula is based on enrollment and the number of classes in which
students are enrolled. Those figures are collected on the 21st day of
enrollment, McClure said.

A 5 percent decline in enrollment corresponds to a loss in funding,
according to education officials. CCC’s enrollment declined by about 10
percent last year.

McClure said a performance-based funding formula is being considered
instead by Department officials.

“Institutions are not rewarded for graduating students and student
success,” McClure told Freedom Newspapers.

McClure said student success is a major goal of higher education, and
institutions should be “funded accordingly.”

The New Mexico Higher Education task force is also set to make
recommendations for a new funding formula in coming weeks.