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Panel supports housing plan for UNM freshmen

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico administrators are moving forward with a plan to require some freshmen to live in university housing despite opposition from a pair of student leaders.

That decision came at a regent subcommittee in which regents Tom Clifford and Marron Lee voted in favor of the project.

“I heard the other day UNM referred to as a commuter school and it really kinda got under my skin. We shouldn’t be a commuter school,” Lee said during the meeting. “We’re the flagship institution of this state, and we should have that strong community that stays on campus.”

Student Regent Ryan Berryman voted against the measure. He said he supports the benefits of living on campus, but disagreed with the idea of requiring people to do so.

“I don’t feel comfortable pricing out … students and, you know, talking about them like they never had a chance. That’s tough for me,” Berryman said.

The measure will be heard before the full board of regents on Tuesday.

The cost of annual tuition is about $7,000, and room and board is about $9,400.

The new requirement would bring about 200 new students to university housing, according to administrators at the meeting, and it would take effect in fall 2017. The living requirement would allow for numerous exceptions. For example, students who live with a parent, guardian or family member within 30 miles of the university would not be required to live in a dorm. And it wouldn’t be required for those whom dorm living would be an “undue hardship,” financial or otherwise. Supporters of the live-on requirement say students who spend their early years on campus are more likely to do better academically compared to their peers who don’t.

That potential for improved learning is what swayed head of the faculty senate, Pamela Pyle. She said she was initially leery of the plan, but changed her tune after learning more of the program.

“When you bring these students in, if you let them live anywhere it’s incumbent on them to create a life for themselves,” Pyle said. “We have a hand ensuring their success.”

Kyle Biederwolf, president of the Associated Students of UNM, said in a statement that student government recognizes the value of living on campus, but couldn’t at this time, “comfortably support” the measure.

Biederwolf said he had concerns the university couldn’t provide enough beds in the future. In gathering data on this topic, Biederwolf said they found having a choice to live on or off campus was a major selling point for future students.

“While we recognize the many benefits of living on campus – at this point in time, our opinion is that UNM is not ready for a live-on campus requirement,” Biederwolf said.

Chris Vallejos, an UNM administrator who oversees the student housing department, said there is currently enough beds and parking spots to accommodate the increase of students that would come with the new living requirement.

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