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Higher Education

Inside UNM, CNM and higher education issues around the state

UNM West community meeting short on details

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University of New Mexico President Bob Frank was scant on specifics at a meeting where he outlined the university’s vision for the future of the UNM West campus in Rio Rancho.

Publicity promoting the meeting said Frank would “Discuss plans for campus development with the community” but city councilors who expected to hear details were disappointed.

“All I heard was ‘we’re working on it,’” said Councilor Lonnie Clayton.

Frank’s address to a group of about 80 at the UNM West Campus in Rio Rancho’s city center dealt in broad terms with the changing nature of universities and the need to provide opportunities for lifelong learning in the community.

He and Carol Parker, associate dean of the UNM School of Law, talked about making the campus a unique environment, increasing enrollment —which currently stands at about 600 — and taking an innovative approach to meeting projected job openings in health care and technology fields.

“I do not want the (for-profit) University of Phoenix coming in to train these workers,” Parker said.

But Frank offered no details on how soon the campus would begin offering new courses, including first- and second-year courses.

The campus opened in early 2010, offering junior, senior and graduate-level classes. It has a relationship with the Central New Mexico Community College, which allows students to take lower level classes and transition to UNM West.

About half a dozen residents of the area said they valued the campus but would like to see more courses offered and more collaboration with local high schools and businesses like Intel.

The lack of detail concerned Councilor Chuck Wilkins, who plans to seek a special election this summer asking to reduce the quarter cent higher education gross receipts tax voters approved in 2008 by 50 percent and establish a new eighth of a cent tax to help fund the city’s public safety needs.

“I thought we’d hear why we (UNM) needs the quarter cent. I didn’t hear that and I haven’t changed my mind,” Wilkins said.

Cutting the tax benefiting UNM, which brings in about $2 million a year, would “be devastating,” Frank said in an interview.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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