COMMENTARY: As expressed in the Aug. 30 board meeting, the Board of Regents of New Mexico State University sincerely appreciates the stakeholder input received both publicly and privately over the past couple of weeks. The input affirms the level of commitment and passion we are blessed with at this university.
While the university faces many challenges, the input has created a great opportunity to get the word out on some the positive things happening at NMSU — accomplishments that are a result of exceptional people, students, staff, faculty, administration, and regents who enabled those successes and make up what NMSU is.
In the same meeting, the Board of Regents took the first step in charting the course for NMSU’s future success — hiring the university’s top leader. Of great importance to the Board is not to look 1-2 years down the road in its hiring decision, but rather 7-10 years down the road. Students’ needs and options for a college education are changing rapidly. We must anticipate to the best of our ability how to achieve strong student outcomes for the next decade, recognizing the needs of NMSU five years ago are different than the needs going forward.
Relative to our peer group and regional universities, NMSU has lost revenue generation opportunities by not reversing multi-year trends in several key performance areas, resulting in declining enrollment, retention and research. The Board has expressed in multiple public meetings the importance of maintaining a balanced focus between cutting the university’s cost and increasing revenue through student enrollment, student success outcomes and research. This balanced focus is necessary not only because it is core to our mission but because it mitigates downward trends in public funding.
Enrollment in 2011-2012 was 18,024 students. The projection for 2017-2018 is 14,432 (a 19.9 percent decrease). Each 1 percent change in enrollment equates to about $1 million in annual revenue. This has resulted in the need to cut more jobs, programs and resources that would not have been necessary had we performed closer to area peers.
The Board has and will continue to show professionalism, confidentiality, restraint and integrity by not engaging in communication regarding personnel matters. As regents, it is our job to uphold the mission of the university. Our decisions are based upon input from stakeholders, evaluation of data/performance metrics and what is necessary to serve the educational needs of New Mexico’s diverse population.
Ultimately, long-term sustainability is achieved by success in the outcomes of the university relative to its mission. It is our hope that as Aggies we will move forward, transforming lives through discovery.
Rumors have also been circulated that the Board’s decision is the result of the governor’s interest in the position, or a result of her dissatisfaction with the chancellor’s position on the recent funding veto vote. Both rumors are absolutely false, and a distraction to the important work ahead. The governor herself has publicly said she has no interest in seeking a New Mexico university leadership role.
For the past three-plus years the Board has set clear directional priorities for the chancellor and has monitored performance against these priorities. The details of these conversations are personnel-related and will remain confidential.
Finally, without question the Board is deeply grateful to the chancellor and the NMSU team for the key contributions made, especially in improving graduation rates, development and unprecedented fundraising in the Ignite Aggie Campaign — so much so that the Board has offered and the chancellor is agreeable to consider developing a key role for him at NMSU to continue to champion and contribute in those areas the chancellor most successfully impacted, including fundraising.
We look forward to advancing these discussions with the chancellor once the search is concluded.
Debra Hicks is the chair of the NMSU Board of Regents. Kari Mitchell is the vice chair. Agree with their opinion? Disagree? NMPolitics.net welcomes your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.