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Continuing Education Cuts Proposed

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UNM benefit loss would save $1.1M

University of New Mexico’s Division of Continuing Education is appealing to its students to help fend off university budget cuts.

The program, designed to offer noncredit professional development courses ranging from résumé writing to digital filmmaking, could lose a third of its annual revenue if the university accepts a recommendation to stop offering free tuition to UNM staff, faculty and retirees for Continuing Education classes.

About one in five students enrolled in the courses are UNM employees attending on the university’s dime, said Joseph Miera, associate dean for Continuing Education.

That tuition benefit for about 3,000 people costs the university $1.1 million a year. An additional $2.4 million in Continuing Education revenue comes from class fees paid by the general public.

Looking for savings in the instructional budget, a UNM budget advisory group has recommended the nonacademic employee benefit be cut, creating more than $1 million for next year’s budget, which is projected to have a shortfall of $28 million.

Fearing the cuts may be approved, Continuing Education sent a mass e-mail Friday asking students and supporters to contact university officials, including President David Schmidly’s office, to oppose the recommendation.

“If enacted, this proposal would create a loss of revenue that would threaten the long-term sustainability of the Division of Continuing Education. We feel that this would have significant impacts for our students, our customers and our community partners,” the e-mail states.

UNM administrators have said it’s too early to address the recommendations, made by one of three advisory committees.

“It’s too premature to talk about any of the recommendations. We can’t talk about them without looking at all of them,” UNM spokeswoman Susan McKinsey has said.

Continuing Education officials fear a cut to the employee benefit may force it to cancel courses that would struggle to enroll enough students when employees are excluded, Miera said.

Even with university funding, however, the program has operated at a loss each year. In 2010, Continuing Education reported a loss of $182,000, Miera said.

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