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UNM budget includes salary and tuition increases

Banners line the sidewalk on the UNM campus on April 4. Regents voted for raising tuition and giving faculty and staff a raise next year. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

University of New Mexico students are going to pay a little more and its employees are going to make a little more.

On Monday, the university’s Board of Regents approved budget recommendations for the 2020 fiscal year that will give faculty and staff a 3% raise next year and increase tuition for most students by about the same percentage.

The budget proposal for main campus for the 2020 fiscal year was approved 6-1, with Regent Kimberly Sanchez Rael voting against it. She said she wasn’t in favor of raising base tuition given that UNM is trying to grow its enrollment.

“We can’t cut our way to prosperity,” Sanchez Rael said after the meeting. “We really have to grow and rebuild the institution.”

The vote came after regents voted 4-3 against a proposal that would have kept base tuition the same and awarded faculty and staff a 2% raise.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office has said it expects faculty and staff at colleges and universities throughout the state, including at UNM, to receive a 4% pay increase.

Kate O’Neill, the cabinet secretary of higher education, sent a letter to higher education leaders throughout the state earlier this month that mandated a 4% pay raise; that letter led to a series of budget meetings and scenarios at UNM as officials worked to fund the pay increase.

Regent President Doug Brown, who supported the proposal to give a 2% raise, said he spoke with Lujan Grisham about UNM’s budget last weekend. Based on that conversation, Brown said he was confident the university could have provided employees the 2% raise and then asked the state to provide additional funding early next year to give employees a bigger raise.

“She would welcome a supplemental request,” Brown said at the meeting.

A spokesman for the governor said the office would prefer that UNM employees get a 4% pay raise but the office didn’t comment further on the regents vote.

Brown, Sanchez Rael and Regent Sandra Begay all voted in favor of the budget recommendation that gave a 2% raise to employees but kept tuition the same.

After that vote failed, Brown and Begay joined Regents Marron Lee, Robert Doughty, Robert Schwartz, and student Regent Melissa Henry in support of the proposal to give a 3% pay raise.

Schwartz said he supported the latter proposal, in part, because students were represented on the budget leadership team, which unanimously recommended the budget proposal that called for a 3% raise and a 3.1% tuition increase. The student body president was on the team.

“I thought it was really important that we tell our faculty and staff that they are worthy,” Schwartz said. “I don’t like the idea of a tuition increase … but it was the best of the bad alternatives to fund something that was really urgently necessary.”

The approved tuition increase will amount to an extra $115 to $145 per semester depending on a student’s course load.

Students taking low-level courses will pay about $3,800 per semester, upper-level undergrads will pay about $4,350 per semester and graduate students’ tuition will be about $4,770 per semester, according to university documents.

The pay increase will go to most employees. University coaches, who have their own contracts, won’t receive a pay increase, and neither will some other employees, such as those on probation or those who scored poorly on performance evaluations, said Cinnamon Blair, a university spokeswoman.

Regent Rob Doughty suggested giving faculty and staff a 3% increase by dipping into university reserves instead of increasing tuition.

The budget recommendation approved Monday already uses about $3.5 million in reserves, and university officials cautioned against digging further into that well.

“Using reserves is another form of kicking the can down the road,” UNM President Garnett Stokes said. “To me, this was a good compromise.”

On the university’s main campus, the budget is projecting $123.6 million in tuition revenue in the upcoming fiscal year. That would mark a $10 million, or 7.7%, decrease from the current fiscal year.

Interim Provost Richard Wood said the university is using those projections for planning purposes and officials are hopeful there won’t be that significant of a reduction.

State appropriations are going to increase on the campus next fiscal year, as a result of increased state revenue from oil and gas production.

The university is planning for $194 million in state appropriations in the next fiscal year. That marks an increase of $12.9 million, or 6.9%, above the current fiscal year.

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