Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Thousands of New Mexico’s college students headed into summer break without knowing what awaits them – or at least their bank accounts – this fall.
The state’s two largest universities have not set tuition rates for the academic year that starts in August due to lingering questions about their overall budgets. Gov. Susana Martinez in April vetoed higher education funding from a Legislature-approved spending bill for the coming fiscal year. Though she has said officials would revive the funding during a special session – which begins next week – schools have not had a guaranteed state appropriation around which to build a larger financial plan.
New Mexico universities get approximately 50-60 percent of their instruction and general revenue from the state, making it a critical piece in the budget puzzle.
Both the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University have refrained from making tuition decisions until they have more clarity about the state money, though UNM’s decision could happen as early as Wednesday during its scheduled budget summit.
Tuition and fees for in-state UNM students amounted to $6,950 in 2016-17. Regents President Rob Doughty would not say this week whether he expected it to rise.
“We’re waiting on a full report from the (UNM) budget leadership team,” he said.
At NMSU, the governing board has not set tuition but the school has advertised a place-holder rate for tuition and fees that represents a 6 percent increase – $3,561 per semester for in-state students taking 15 credits.
“We had to put something on the website so students could begin registering for this fall,” said spokesman Justin Bannister, but he noted the posted rate is pending and reflects a worst-case scenario – the highest increase option the administration would present to regents before they vote. The final rate could be lower.
Some smaller schools around the state have already settled on tuition hikes. Western New Mexico University’s in-state students will pay 2.7 percent more in combined tuition and fees this fall, while tuition will climb 7.5 percent at both Eastern New Mexico University and New Mexico Highlands University.
Central New Mexico Community College, New Mexico’s largest community college, also forged forward with a tuition decision despite state funding uncertainty. President Katharine Winograd said students – many of whom also work – deserved some certainty, though officials may have to revisit the rates later. Academic transfer courses (like English, math and history) will rise to $54 from $52 per credit hour for local students, a 3.8 percent increase, while the career technical classes will cost local students $40 per hour, compared with $32, up 25 percent.
“This was a difficult decision, but we felt we had to go ahead and set our tuition rates for the fall term so our students can make informed decisions on their academic plans,” Winograd said in a written statement.