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NNMC regents approve budget

ESPAÑOLA – Northern New Mexico College’s Board of Regents on Saturday approved a $29.5 million operating budget for 2014-15 that won’t raise tuition, but does come at the expense of three degree programs, several jobs and a lot of hurt feelings.

Being cut are the automotive, construction trades and radiologic technology programs, which Vice President for Finance and Administration Domingo Sanchez said would save the college about $600,000 per year. He said seven faculty and nine staff positions would be eliminated, but because of retirements and current vacancies just nine people will lose their jobs.

Craig Borner, an adjunct instructor teaching automotive classes at the college, may be one of them. In addition to that concern, he was worried about the future of the college.

“This is the absolute beginning of the end for this college,” he said after the board voted to cut the vocational programs. “First they took ‘community’ out of the name of the college, now they’re taking the community out of the college.”

NNMC used to be Northern New Mexico Community College until legislation enacted in 2005 allowed it to offer four-year degree programs. The college changed its name at that time.

Saturday’s meeting was a continuation of the agenda from Thursday, when regents heard from about 30 people, the vast majority speaking in favor of keeping the programs and not raising tuition.

The initial budget proposal called for a 5 percent tuition increase, following a 13 percent increase this year. The board’s vote kept tuition at current levels.

Several automotive students said eliminating that program would be a mistake, reminding the board that Española is known as the “Lowrider Capital of the World.”

Students and faculty members were also critical of school administration, claiming mismanagement of budgets and grant funds, filling positions by appointment rather than by search, and a lack of transparency.

Earlier this month, the student senate and faculty issued “no confidence” votes against top administrators.

During Saturday’s meeting, Sanchez said the programs being cut were marked for elimination largely due to low enrollment. Construction trades, for example, graduated just one student in the past three years, he said. Five students earned degrees automotive technology and repair during that time frame, and 25 have graduated from radiologic technology.

Classes necessary to achieve graduation will be kept open for students currently enrolled in the programs.

Saturday’s budget vote was unanimous, with one person absent.

At the conclusion the meeting, an emotional Board President Rosario “Chayo” Garcia said that it had been a hard week for her and everyone involved in the budget process.

Harsh words had been spoken in the past few days and it was clear there was a lack of trust in administration by students and faculty, she said.

“I love this college; I love this community,” she said. “And I’m afraid what’s happened the last few days will start an avalanche we’re not going to be able to control.”

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