Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Eamon Scarbrough
Staff writer 

College presidents worry over funding

Schools still recovering from last round of cuts.

 

April 26, 2017



As the New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez battle over the state budget, and funding for higher education is currently at zero, there’s no doubt there is uncertainty — and local college presidents are concerned.

“We’re not going to not fund higher education,” Martinez said at a Monday news conference, a week-and-a-half after vetoing the state budget. “That is extremely important to the Legislature and to me. We set (higher ed funding) aside, because I didn’t have a balanced budget. Since I didn’t have a balanced budget, we had to set things aside. And then we’re going to put it back, of course, the (funds for) higher ed and the Legislature.”

Eastern New Mexico University President Steven Gamble said the uncertainty is worrisome for him and the college, but he remained optimistic about a possible outcome.

“We think, in the end, the Legislature and the governor’s office will come to a good resolution to the overall state budget, and within that budget, we are hopeful that higher education will be treated fairly,” said Gamble.

He noted any further cuts will land on top of a 7.5 percent cut from which his university is still recovering.

“For us, that is $2.2 million. Any additional cuts would just deepen the pain,” he said.

Those same concerns are shared by Clovis Community College President Becky Rowley.

“I know she (Martinez) said she will restore higher education. Our concern is that that doesn’t mean that we won’t still be cut, and we’re concerned about receiving further cuts,” she said. “Higher education’s already been cut almost 8 percent over the last couple of years, and that’s been a lot for us to absorb. If we’re cut further, then that will eventually start having an impact on tuition, the services that we can offer, everything.”

The cuts themselves are painful for CCC, but according to Rowley, the uncertainty adds another layer of difficulty.

“If she and the Legislature restore higher education with very minimal cuts, that would be great, and a lot of the problem is just the uncertainty. We don’t know their timeline for coming to any kind of agreement. It creates angst in our students and in our faculty and staff,” she said.

Thomas Newsom, president of Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, said he does not yet know what the impacts to his school will be as of July 1 (the beginning of the 2017-18 fiscal year), but said New Mexico Independent Community Colleges will release a statement together sometime in the next week regarding higher education funding.

 

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