The Board of Regents Finance and Facilities Committee faced the looming possibility of University-wide budget cuts, new construction and increased tuition during its Wednesday morning meeting.
Richard Wood, president of the Faculty Senate, said proposed 3.2 percent budget cuts have departments shaking in their boots and looking for ways to avoid cutting jobs.
“There’s nothing we can do with these budget cuts that will not affect the students, but right now there are strategies being pursued,” Wood said. “We are raising class sizes from 40 students to 60. That really affects the kind of teaching the instructor can do and the type of learning that can happen.”
With possible budget cuts ahead, a tuition hike could be a solution in order to continue funding projects. But when taking any action Regent Jamie Koch said departments should accept proposed cuts and then re-assess the situation.
“I think that we should take the 3.2 percent cut across the board for everybody. I think we should not look at a tuition increase,” Koch said.
Lazaro “Laz” Cardenas, ASUNM president, said a tuition hike should be avoided at all possible costs.
“I hope, personally, that there won’t be any tuition raises or increases this year, but we are facing some pretty tough times,” he said. “Budgets cuts are there, though, and that is what we are facing. I truly and honestly believe that everyone is working together to get things right.”
With the proposed construction of a new $4 million Lobo baseball stadium on south campus, Cardenas said some might question where UNM’s priorities lie, but pitting one department against another does little to solve the problem.
“I look at this as we are all in this together,” he said. “There is no reason to put one person up against another or one department on another. I think out of this meeting the situation that we are in is that students were on the top on this one. They were the priority.”
The bulk of the stadium funding will come from 2010 severance tax bonds, which cover $2 million of the project, while private donors have chipped in $1 million and the remaining money will be raised through fundraising. Approval for the baseball field is still pending and will be reevaluated when final figures are calculated.
“I think that one of the main issues is if it will come from student fees,” Cardenas said. “In these economic times, using the student fees to renovate the baseball field would be inappropriate because other academic programs are being cut right now.”
Budget cut decisions will be finalized Sept. 14th at the full Board of Regents meeting, but until then options will be raised and evaluated, Wood said.
“This is very painful; there isn’t an easy way to do this.” he said. “These are hard decisions, and it’s people of good will — the regents, the administrators and faculty — working on this.”