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UNM budget considers hike in athletic fees

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico regents today will review the school’s proposed budget, including a potential increase in student fees for athletics and a shift in funding source for libraries.

Regents also will discuss a proposed new model for the way UNM charges tuition. The new model, which would charge less money per credit hour for students who take 15 or more hours, would increase tuition by 14 percent for some students.

Last year’s budget was about $2.4 billion. The size of the current budget was unavailable Monday.

Proposed fee increases for libraries and athletics last year drew ire from students, who held a protest outside the Student Union Building, saying they already paid enough. At the time, administrators and some regents argued libraries and athletics were severely underfunded. They overruled a student group’s proposal that would have kept student fee increases to 3.4 percent and instead proposed an 8 percent growth.

In the end, regents backed off the steeper increase, compromising on 5.6 percent. But the amount that students pay in fees for athletics grew by more than 61 percent, to $131.75 per student.

This year the Student Fee Review Board is recommending a 3.1 percent fee increase.

However, regent Jamie Koch said he wants to shift some of the student fee money that now goes for libraries to athletics so athletics would get about $4 million from fees next school year. It got about $3 million this year.

Koch said he wanted the $781,000 — or about $33 per student — that goes to libraries to instead be funded through the university’s instruction and general budget.

The Student Fee Review Board also wants more funding for libraries through the school’s general budget. The board recommended giving libraries the current $33 per student and also suggested more general budget money be dedicated to libraries.

But the student board said it doesn’t want to see any more student fee money going to athletics.

“Due to increases in overall funding requests from student fees, the (board) does not feel it in the best interest of student affordability to increase funding to athletics in this coming academic year …” the board wrote in its recommendation.

Koch and others have long argued that athletics does not get enough money from student fees.

At least two Mountain West Conference schools charge double the fees UNM charges for athletics. San Diego State University charges $311 per student.

Associated Students of the University of New Mexico president Caroline Muraida, who served as chair of the student fee review board, said students don’t plan on backing off their stance to keep student fees for athletics as is.

“Essentially what (Koch’s) suggestion does is (put) libraries in competition with athletics, and we see them both as valuable resources to the university,” Muraida said. “We’re hopefully looking for a healthy conversation, but as far as any additional increases beyond our recommendation, I think you’ll see students don’t support that.”

Also Tuesday, regents could act on a new budget proposal that gives faculty a 3 percent raise and staff a 1 percent raise. That would be funded under a new model for charging tuition that would mean a 14 percent for some students. That model, which breaks down the cost of school by credit hour, reduces the cost of tuition for students who take 15 or more credit hours, and raises it for those who take 12 or less. The university hopes this will help students graduate faster.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal