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Students Slam UNM Plan To Increase Fees

Damon Hudson, center, was among several dozen people protesting Thursday against a proposed tuition increase at the University of New Mexico. Regents today also will begin considering an increase in student fees. (MARLA BROSE/JOURNAL)
Damon Hudson, center, was among several dozen people protesting Thursday against a proposed tuition increase at the University of New Mexico. Regents today also will begin considering an increase in student fees. (MARLA BROSE/JOURNAL)

A University of New Mexico plan to raise student fees for libraries and athletics is drawing fire from some students who say they already pay enough.

(View Friday’s updates on the regents’ decisions here.)

UNM regents today will deliberate a proposed increase in tuition and fees next year, one day after students held a protest on campus in front of the Student Union Building. Final action on the budget is not expected until next month.

UNM wants to increase tuition by 3.75 percent for all students; fees would rise 8 percent for undergraduates and 7.78 percent for graduate students. Fees are paid on top of tuition.

The Student Fee Review Board, which spent dozens of hours deliberating how to allocate fees, had recommended a 3.4 percent increase in student fees overall.

Based on the proposed increases, undergrads will pay about $4,825 in tuition and $1,251 in fees yearly, and graduate students will pay $3,928 in tuition and $1,283 in fees.

Students are particularly opposed to the fee increases recommended by President David Schmidly that provide more money for libraries and athletics. About 50 students turned out Thursday to protest the administration’s fee proposal.

Graduate student Marisa Silva told the crowd that while it’s important to support athletics and the school’s teams, students “are already paying those dues.”

“We do not need to pay more money,” she said. “What they’re asking us to do is bail out our athletics department (which) is being fiscally irresponsible.”

Schmidly’s proposal asks students to pay $60.45 for libraries and $131.75 for athletics. A board comprised of students had recommended $33.45 and $81.75 respectively.

Schmidly has said athletics is “under-invested” and that funding libraries more adequately is crucial to the school’s academic performance. The fee increase for athletics would be on top of a onetime $1.25 million loan to the department that would be funded by general school funds.

At least two regents, along with Schmidly, have said student fee allocations for athletics and libraries were too low, especially compared to other universities.

For example, two schools in the Mountain West Conference charge almost triple what UNM charges in student fees for athletics. Another, San Diego State University, charges a total of about $10 million that goes to athletics, or about $311 per student. UNM charges about $1.8 million, amounting to $81.75 per student.

Still, UNM students say they already pay too much in fees.

Matthew Rush, a graduate student who was an alternate on the Student Fee Review Board, told about 50 protesters outside the Student Union Building that he and his fellow board members were supportive of funding libraries, and had in fact given them an increase over last year, for the second year in a row.

But shortfalls in library funding should be covered by the school’s general budget, Rush said.

“We as students need to be responsible for where our student fees go,” he said.

Schmidly, at a regents committee last week, said he has “a very high priority for us to consider investment in libraries.”

Regent Gene Gallegos also said funding for libraries was a concern. “We’re way behind,” he said last week. “It’s not a matter of $4 or $5 per student.”

Meanwhile, athletics has seen losses in ticket sales revenue and budget allocations that likely will mean the department will finish in the red this school year.

“We are under-invested in terms of what we’re doing with student fees and athletics, and I know it’s a lot to ask the students to give more. But we have to think about this not only in the short term – we have to think about this in the long term. And I would hate to see us begin to drop sports,” Schmidly said.

Student fees also fund services like Student Health and Counseling and the Center for Academic Support, which provides tutoring.

Meanwhile, the administration is asking for the tuition increases to help cover the costs of hiring new faculty and giving a one-time 1.25 percent payment to many employees, who have not seen a salary increase in three years.

UNM is projecting about $173 million for the instructional general budget at the main campus for next year, the first time in three years UNM’s state funding isn’t being cut.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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