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N.M.’s higher-ed cuts exceed U.S. average

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New Mexico’s cuts to higher education funding have exceeded the national average, according to a new report.

The report released Tuesday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, shows New Mexico’s spending per student has dropped by 36.7 percent, while the national average is 28 percent. The report looks at funding from fiscal year 2008 through the current fiscal year, adjusted for inflation.

Cuts in New Mexico have led to an average 22 percent increase in tuition, or about $1,015, since 2008.

“Business leaders have said over and over again that their companies need a well-educated workforce,” Veronica C. GarcĂ­a, executive director of the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children, said in a news release. “Yet, New Mexico has chosen to cut investment in this area, and the resulting tuition increases have jeopardized the solvency of our Lottery Scholarship fund. Without the Lottery Scholarship, too many young people in our state cannot afford to go to college. This is not the way to create a thriving economy.”

Drops in funding began in 2009, soon after the economy crashed.

Data show that in 2008, New Mexico distributed more than $1 billion to higher education institutions that had a total of 85,203 full-time students enrolled. That’s about $13,000 per student.

In 2012, $810.5 million went to New Mexico colleges and universities with a total enrollment of 97,742 full-time students. That figure, adjusted for inflation, resulted in $8,293 spent per student.

In many states, budget reductions meant faculty and staff were cut, and tuition and fees spiked. For example, Arizona State University has increased its tuition by more than 78 percent in the past five years.

The University of New Mexico, the state’s flagship university, has staved off layoffs but has struggled to fund new faculty positions and has not given raises to faculty or staff in several years. The university has raised tuition every year since 2008.

“Although cuts from the state have impacted our budget, they have also compelled the university to re-evaluate the way in which it was spending money and set in motion efforts to reward performance and reinvest state dollars,” UNM president Bob Frank said. “UNM has worked hard with our students to advocate for solvency of the lottery scholarship and will continue to do so in the future.”

The lottery scholarship, available to any New Mexican who graduates from high school here with a minimum 2.5 GPA, is facing insolvency by the fall semester. Attempts at long-term remedies during this year’s legislative session went nowhere, although the Legislature passed a bill that would infuse the lottery scholarship fund with $10 million from the Tobacco Settlement fund on a one-time basis.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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