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NM universities fear higher cuts to state funding

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Months after digesting Legislature ordered funding cuts, university officials in New Mexico expressed concern Tuesday over a GOP-led House proposal in the special session that would slash more money from state colleges amid a statewide budget crisis.

House Republicans proposed Monday to replace Senate Democratic cuts in K-12 education with reductions in higher education. Under the GOP plan, colleges and universities in New Mexico would see around an additional 6 percent cut in funding. That would be on top of a 2.5 cut ordered by state lawmakers at the beginning of the year.

“We feel it will be very difficult for higher education to achieve these cuts on top of the 2 and one-half percent already assessed in the regular session last January,” New Mexico State University Chancellor Garrey Carruthers said.

The Democratic-controlled Senate has adjourned from the special session, but could return, and leaders have not signaled whether they would support higher education funding reductions to close an overall half-a-billion-dollar shortfall.

In an email to all alumni in their database, president of the University of New Mexico Alumni Association James Lewis implored UNM graduates to ask their state legislators to treat UNM like everyone else. He also suggested some lawmakers were considering slashing UNM’s budget an additional 3 percent compared to other schools.

“We’re just asking for fairness,” Lewis said.

But state Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, said language in the House budget-cutting bill would be changed to call for higher education spending cuts to be prioritized toward non-instructional expenses.

He said the intent of targeting the budget cuts in that way was perceived higher education “largesse,” particularly in administrative expenditures.

“What we’re targeting is what’s been in the papers and on TV,” Roch told the Journal .

Eastern New Mexico University President Steven Gamble told The Associated Press that the proposed reductions would add more stress to an already strapped school budget. He added the Eastern New Mexico likely would have to raise tuition but probably not implement layoffs.

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