KATE O’NEILL of the University of New Mexico Taos campus and UNM president David Schmidly, in a recent column, argued on behalf of the myriad branch campuses throughout New Mexico. By my count, UNM alone has 10 statewide education centers, main campus, and a campus in Rio Rancho. Other universities such as New Mexico State University and Highlands University have their own campuses and sundry branches throughout the state as well.
The assertion is that New Mexico simply can’t afford to cut down on any of these branch campuses, lest we fall behind even further in education. Of course, the “local jobs” argument was thrown in as well for good measure. To say the least, their arguments don’t hold much water, as they have no useful data to back up their arguments.
The nonpartisan Legislative Finance Committee, on the other hand, has an excellent report on higher education in New Mexico.
Among its findings: “New Mexico needs improvements in the cost-effectiveness of higher education” and “Finance mechanisms generally encourage growth to meet undefined ‘access’ goals, do not take into account performance or institutional capacity and do not reward excellence.”
The fact is that we have too many branch campuses and a bloated higher education system that is not accountable for results. Interestingly enough, according to the website collegemeasures.org, New Mexico has among the worst college graduation and first-year retention rates in the nation.
Rather than funding bureaucratic universities, we need to fund the educational needs of students and spur the competition and accountability that is sorely lacking.
PAUL J. GESSING
President, Rio Grande Foundation