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8% Tuition Hike at UNM Proposed

By James Monteleone
Journal Staff Writer
       University of New Mexico students would see an 8 percent tuition hike next year, but faculty would be spared from a pension payment increase, under a budget proposal approved Wednesday by President David Schmidly.
    While details of the spending plan will not be released until today, interviews with UNM officials indicate the proposal includes nearly $4 million to cover a state-mandated pension hike that would have cut employees' take-home pay by 1.75 percent.
    Schmidly said the university would pay the pension hike for all employees except administrators ranked as associate vice presidents or above, who would pay the difference out of pocket.
    "Our people, I really believe, are working very hard and doing a great job with the students in these difficult times. Here they would have been faced with a 1.75 percent, in effect, cut to their pay," Schmidly said. "I felt that, if there was any way to do it, we should cover it, except for the executives."
    The budget, which will go before the regents Monday, does not include pay increases.
    UNM said the current instructional budget for the main campus totals about $256 million, including mid-year cuts. But it was still unclear what next year's proposal totals.
    The 2012 budget shortfall initially was projected to be as high as $28 million. Following months of budget review and cost-cutting proposals, the gap for UNM's main campus was cut to about $12 million in an outline presented to regents earlier this month.
    Schmidly said his latest budget scenario includes additional cuts, including new administrative reductions, that get the shortfall down to about $4 million for next year. The budget depends on extra money from an 8 percent tuition increase.
    Such a hike would mean a full-time undergraduate student would pay about $450 more next year, for a total of $5,950 in tuition and fees over two semesters.
    Schmidly said the new tuition money would go toward filling vacant faculty positions and adding more graduate student teachers.
    UNM employees earning more than $20,000 per year currently pay 9.4 percent of salary toward their state pension through the Educational Retirement Board. That includes a 1.5 percent share the state shifted to employees in 2009. The Legislature voted to tack on the additional 1.75 percent the employees pay for the state-run pension plan next year, allowing the state to save about $49.2 million.
    Faculty Senate President Richard Wood said the university's proposal to limit the burden of state cuts is greatly appreciated by faculty and staff facing what would amount to a pay cut. Most employees haven't received a pay raise in three years.
    After taking the 1.5 percent loss in 2009, many university workers can't afford another hit, he said.
    "I think it does build good will," Wood said. "If it's implemented, it will be a huge relief for faculty and especially the lower paid staff."
    Faculty at UNM earn an average salary of $81,000, according to 2010 data compiled by the American Association of University Professors.

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