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UNM Regents OK $2.96 billion budget

University of New Mexico Regents approved a $2.96 billion budget Friday that includes a tuition hike. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal file photo)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Spending on bond-funded construction projects and Legislature-approved pay raises will help push up the University of New Mexico’s total budget by 1.7 percent for fiscal year 2019.

The budget approved by regents 6-1 on Friday climbs to $2.96 billion when including the main campus, Health Sciences Center and UNM’s four branch campuses.

Health Sciences represents the bulk at $2.04 billion, a .7 percent uptick. The majority is the UNM Health System, including the $1.1 billion/year UNM Hospitals enterprise.

The main campus accounts for $866 million, up 3.6 percent.

The budget reflects a tuition increase already approved by the regents in March. Students in 2018-19 will pay 2.5 percent more across the board, plus an extra $7 per credit hour on some upper-division courses.

Even with the hike, UNM is forecasting lower tuition and fee revenue than the current year because of anticipated enrollment declines.

Officials pinned budget growth on several other factors, including capital spending. On the main campus, it will jump to $187 million in 2019 from $143 million as UNM applies bond proceeds to projects like the new Physics & Astronomy Interdisciplinary Science Building and a major Johnson Center upgrade.

UNM also is boosting faculty and staff compensation by 1 percent using money allocated by the Legislature.

Regent Tom Clifford raised concerns about the budget’s growth in the face of falling enrollment. Though he voted in favor of the tuition increase in March, he said universities are becoming cost-prohibitive.

“You end up with higher education that’s unaffordable for the majority of our society; that’s what’s happening in higher ed and it’s happening here,” Clifford said.

He ultimately voted for the budget, though Regent Michael Brasher — who voiced similar concerns — cast a vote against it.

UNM President Garnett Stokes said after the meeting that UNM attempts to carefully manage its costs and provide financial help where needed. It is putting about $443,000 of revenue generated from the tuition increase back into financial aid.

“We really are working hard to make sure students who need support to be here get it,” she said.

Tuition and state appropriations remain the main campus’ primary funding sources. While state appropriations will increase by $6.6 million for 2019, that follows two years of declines, and the sum remains below 2015 levels.

Friday’s conversations included athletics, one of UNM’s highest-profile financial challenges given its routine budget-busting and cumulative $4.7 million deficit to the university’s reserves. Officials have built an athletics budget model for 2020 and beyond that cuts sports to trim expenses by $1.9 million annually and have said they plan to announce any program eliminations by July 1.

Regent Suzanne Quillen asked Athletic Director Eddie Nunez for details about what criteria UNM will use to make those decisions. He said he has some preliminary criteria after meetings with athletes, coaches, donors and others but nothing has been finalized.

“It consists of everything from Title IX, financial (issues) to donor intent; everything from endowments, community influence, wins and losses,” he said. “…Our goal is to put everything on the table and make sure we’re doing our due diligence. Our student-athletes deserve this.”

Also on Friday, the regents approved:

— A new graduate certificate and master’s and doctoral degrees in Chicana and Chicano Studies

— A new joint doctoral degree in geography for which UNM will partner with New Mexico State University

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