UNM delves into enrollment decline

University of New Mexico officials learned more about a dramatic enrollment decrease in this year’s student body at a Tuesday meeting, but there’s still no solution on how to fill the nearly $10 million gap caused by the unexpected tuition and fee shortage.

The university, which has been experiencing an enrollment drop for six years, had anticipated a 2.5 percent drop in this year’s head count. Instead, it dropped 7.2 percent.

Terry Babbitt, vice provost for enrollment management and analytics, told the UNM Board of Regents’ Finance and Facilities Committee that a number of factors contributed to the decrease, including fewer-than-normal admitted students ultimately attending the university.

“We had about the admitted pool that we needed in our target area, but their decision to attend came in at a way lower percentage than we would anticipate,” Babbitt said.

This year, 13,000 applied to UNM, and 9,000 were admitted.

Generally, around 40 percent of those admitted attend, but the percentage was lower this year.

A class-by-class head count is not yet publicly available, Babbitt said in an email sent Wednesday.

Data gathered from a recent survey of admitted students who did not attend indicated around 42 percent of students said receiving better scholarships or financial aid elsewhere had the most influence on their decision.

A recent poll also showed a steep drop from 2016, the poll’s last year, in the number of people who rated their perception of UNM as “very favorable.”

Following what Babbitt called a national trend, fewer people also strongly disagreed with the statement “having a college degree is useful, but not necessary, for most young adults to succeed in the workplace” in a June UNM poll.

Regardless of the cause of the enrollment drop, the university now has a higher-than-anticipated budget gap from $7.6 million less in tuition and $2.1 million in fees, said Richard Wood, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“Given the cuts over the past 8 or 10 years, to just do across-the-board cuts really does risk serious risk to the academic mission in a substantial way,” Wood said.

It’s going to take a mix of immediate strategic cuts and “padding” from reserves to fill in the hole, Wood said.

“As of now, no decisions have been made or contemplated immediately,” he said.

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