Having already cut $32.1 million from its annual budget during the past three fiscal years, New Mexico State University on Thursday made a plea for mercy to state lawmakers and the governor.
“… we formally request our legislators and state administrators to consider New Mexico State University’s proactive cost saving measures as state appropriations for each higher education institution are individually formalized,” states a resolution the university’s Board of Regents unanimously approved.
The university’s cuts have been deep and widely-felt. Because of a 2 percent state funding reduction already made earlier this year, declining enrollment, and other issues, NMSU eliminated jobs, reduced employee benefits, and cut pay for some top administrators to trim $12.1 million from its budget.
The state’s other public colleges and universities haven’t been as quick to make such cuts. The others, including the University of New Mexico, raised tuition earlier this year. NMSU’s regents rejected a proposed tuition increase, with Student Regent Amanda López Askin calling that action “a very deliberate breaking of a cycle.”
Earlier this month, NMSU spokesman Justin Bannister said the university won’t raise tuition mid-year even if lawmakers and the governor make additional cuts in the legislative session that begins at noon today. The university padded its earlier cuts with an extra $1.5 million in anticipation of a possible further state funding reduction.
“We feel pretty confident that we’ll be able to make it through this fiscal year,” Bannister said at the time.
At Thursday’s meeting, however, Regents Chairwoman Debra Hicks warned against across-the-board cuts that don’t take into consideration NMSU’s efforts.
“We knew these reductions were important, and we did the right thing,” she said. “But it does not incentivize anyone to take those difficult measures in advance of cuts” if the state further reduces funding.
The governor’s office and several lawmakers didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment on NMSU’s request Friday morning.
Each additional cut of 1 percent in state funding to the NMSU system amounts to about $2 million, Bannister said Friday. So the money NMSU set aside earlier this year could vanish quickly.
The public has seen no legislation at this point to balance the state’s budget, which is several hundred million dollars in the red. But various proposals being floated would cut higher education funding by several percent, with at least one proposing a 7 percent cut.
The Regents’ resolution notes that NMSU “has been on a path to improve its fiscal condition based on the challenges posed by dropping enrollments throughout New Mexico and the Nation” and states that, even with recent funding cuts, the university has increased its four-year graduation rate by 4 percent.
“… we want to express our support for the proactive approaches NMSU has taken in dealing with the state’s budget situation and its impact on higher education,” the resolution states. “… as a leader amongst New Mexico’s institutions of higher education, we hope to work collaboratively with the state in finding the best path for stabilizing funding for higher education while seeking efficiencies and focusing on student success.”