ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Students at the University of New Mexico's main campus will see their tuition jump by 3 percent in the fall – a scenario that is likely to continue in future years – while those who attend the branch campuses will have to brace themselves for even bigger increases.
Students also will notice a commensurate rise in fees for the fall semester.
At the same time, tuition for UNM medical students will actually decline by 1 percent.
The Board of Regents approved the 3 percent increase Friday as part of a program intended to encourage graduation in four years, a novel approach that is thought to be unique in the nation.
Students who start their college education this fall and graduate in four years will have zero tuition to pay in their final semester, a “scholarship” that could amount to as much as $2,818. Most students – the exception is the current class of seniors – who already attend UNM will realize smaller gifts for the final semester.
The cost to the university is expected to reach $2.4 million in four years, but much of that will be offset by payments from the lottery scholarship. All projected figures are based on tuition increases each year, not to exceed 3 percent annually.
The board also OK'd an increase of 4.66 percent in student fees. Together with the tuition increase, the added annual cost for a student taking 15 credit hours will be $217.
The plan was devised by one of UNM's newest regents, Rob Doughty, who joined the board earlier this year. It was opposed by only two of the seven regents, Heidi Overton and Brad Hosmer.
Hosmer had submitted a proposal that in some respects competed with Doughty's, but it was shot down by the board, also on a 5-2 vote.
Currently, only 17 percent of students graduate in four years.
Before the vote, regent Jaime Koch, chairman of the powerful Finance & Facilities Committee, issued a strong statement in support of the Doughty proposal, saying the regents have been talking about graduation rates and four-year tuition plans for years but getting nowhere.
Doughty's plan, Koch said, “potentially … could help us increase enrollment.”
Enrollment is a major concern of UNM policymakers because much of the funding from the state is based on it. Enrollment has declined in recent years and is expected to remain flat in the near future.
The board also approved two “differential” fee requests, including one from the School of Engineering for $15 for each credit hour. Engineering currently does not have any such fees. Assuming a student takes 15 to 18 credit hours per semester, the cost would be $450. That compares with $1,691 at UNM's peer universities and still places UNM lowest of the 22 peer institutions.
The other fee change was to lower one adopted just last year for Speech and Hearing Sciences students. It will decline by $31 per credit hour, to $119.