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Tuition hike, employee raises proposed at UNM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico students could pay higher tuition next year under a budget proposal that would pump more money into campus safety, faculty retention and the core curriculum – a plan that would also give many employees their first raise in four years.

The recommendation, developed by the campus’ “budget leadership team,” includes a 2.5 percent tuition increase, a $7 premium per credit hour for all upper-division and some graduate courses, and a 2.39 percent increase in student fees. Under the BLT proposal, undergraduates would see total costs rise anywhere from $88 to $214 per semester depending on the courses they take.

The proposal earned unanimous approval from the BLT, which includes representatives from the student body, faculty, staff and administration and has been meeting for the past six months.

However, the final decision rests with the Board of Regents. Administrators will present the plan to the board during Thursday’s budget summit.

“I think the regents have to pass their best judgment on what’s best for New Mexico students and for the university as an institution, and this proposal from the BLT is the university’s best thinking about that,” said interim Senior Vice Provost Richard Wood.

Regent President Rob Doughty said in a public meeting last month he is against a tuition increase. In a written statement to the Journal Tuesday he said the board is “looking forward to hearing the presentations that outline the proposed FY19 budget” and appreciates the BLT’s work, but did not answer a question about whether he was in favor of the current proposal.

Student leaders, though, have endorsed the BLT recommendation, in part because the plan will put $443,000 more into student financial aid to help students who might struggle to absorb the tuition increase. It also addresses other areas of concern.

“The tuition increase was agreed upon as it invests funds back into student body initiatives,” Noah Michelsohn, communications director for the Associated Students of UNM, said in an email to the Journal. “The money will be going to additional security for students, student mental and emotional health, student financial aid, and improving the academic mission.”

The plan proposes about $415,000 in various campus safety measures, including cameras and lighting, a “security director” position inside the UNM Police Department, and a new online therapist service that Wood said could benefit anyone seeking help who could not – or would not – make a physical trip to a counseling center.

The plan also funds graduate student positions to support faculty who teach UNM’s core curriculum courses, and $813,000 for faculty promotion and retention. With New Mexico’s economic turnaround lagging other parts of the country, Wood said better funded institutions have increasingly circled UNM in an attempt to poach the top professors.

The $813,000 is “to keep our best faculty here at UNM, working with New Mexico students,” Wood said.

UNM has not provided across-the-board pay raises since 2014-15, but the state has also appropriated enough funding to up faculty and staff pay by 1 percent for 2018-19, according to BLT documents.

Wood said under the BLT plan, employees with satisfactory performance evaluations would get a 1 percent increase, though those with “exemplary” performance could ultimately get a little more.

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