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Colleges Want Piece of State Surplus

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Higher education leaders from all over the state lobbied the state’s Legislative Finance Committee on Wednesday for more funding and for a pay raise for employees next year.

Among the many things discussed during the four-hour session at the Roundhouse were an increase in the amount of funding formula dollars allocated, proposed by Higher Education Secretary Jose García, and a 2 percent pay increase for all state employees, proposed by University of New Mexico President Bob Frank.

The Legislature next year is expected to have at least $210 million extra for distribution.

Higher ed wants a piece of that.

“Given that the state is enjoying a surplus … we would like to see a 2 percent increase in compensation for all state employees. We know this is a possibility, and we would like to see that,” Frank said.

He said state employees — that includes UNM faculty and staff — have gone four years without any pay increases, and the university has lost valuable faculty to schools that can pay them more.

Garcia is asking for an additional $4.7 million in funding formula dollars, which is the money the state allocates to colleges and universities based on the new, outcome-based funding formula. In total, HED is asking for $561.4 million to allocate.

The $4.7 million would go to a projected increase in outcome measures, such as the number of end-of-course credit hours an institution has, or the amount it earns through the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math incentives. Because New Mexico schools performed well in some of those areas, the amount they were owed increased this year and could do so again next.

But the funding formula itself is still a work in progress.

“There are some areas we do need to work on, and we’re prepared to do that and support that,” New Mexico Tech president Daniel Lopez said. Lopez, speaking on behalf of the Council of University Presidents, said the formula is still being developed and better measurements should be in place next year.

Those could include institution-specific measurements, with some focusing on research universities and others on community colleges.

LFC members questioned the effectiveness of the funding formula and whether it measured enough outcomes. For example, Rep. Jim White, R-Albuquerque, asked how institutions can measure the quality of a graduate as opposed to just the number of graduates.

“We’re working on perfecting sector metrics. Whether it’s one funding formula or three funding formulas, higher education is vital to the state of New Mexico and to our future. There is nothing in my opinion that’s more valuable for our future economic health than to get higher education right,” Garcia said.
— This article appeared on page C3 of the Albuquerque Journal