UNM regents spent eight hours listening and discussing, but not approving, budget proposals during Monday’s budget summit.
The regents heard University members discuss tuition increases, department decreases and consolidation, instructor salaries and student services. The final budget won’t be approved until the regents meet April 12.
“Today is not a day for decision-making,” UNM President David Schmidly said. “Today is a day for serious listening.”
Student Christopher Ramirez said that eliminating certain services, particularly those offered by the Office of Equity and Inclusion, will negatively impact students.
“There are people at the University who feel like it’s such a hostile environment for them — that they feel like bubbles that can just be popped and not listened to or cared about,” he said.
OEI faces department consolidation into Student Affairs, a measure many students at the meeting said would decrease OEI’s services.
Students were also concerned about rising tuition costs. More than 20 students stood at the back or the room holding protest signs against tuition increases.
ASUNM Presidential Candidate Jaymie Roybal said she opposes tuition increases and told the regents she wants to ensure student services help as many students as possible.
“I’m very nervous about what happens when the Lottery Scholarship goes out,” she said. “How are students going to afford to come to college? It covers a very small portion of tuition, and it’s going to cover less and less until it’s considered a small subsidy. That scares me.”
Schmidly said it’s a misconception that New Mexican families cannot afford tuition increases, and UNM must increase tuition because the state government decreased support of higher education institutions.
“No matter who you compare us to, we are a bargain,” he said. “Nearly all of the states that are poorer than us are investing more into higher education.”
Regent Jamie Koch said New Mexico universities still receive a large subsidy from the state government.
“The support we get from the state is by far higher than the peers,” he said.
Student Justin Delacour said tuition increases put students from low-income families at a disadvantage.
“The relevant population is those who have children who are actually going to the University of New Mexico and what is their income, and what is their average income?” he said. “The comparison group (Schmidly) is using is problematic.”
Before considering a tuition increase, Schmidly said UNM explored other budget-cutting avenues.
“The decision we made before we talked about tuition was to push the envelope on cost-containment and try to make sure before we went to the students,” he said. “We did everything we could on the cost-containment end.”
Since students are expecting a tuition increase, they wanted to know where their dollars are going.
Schmidly presented a breakdown of how each tuition dollar is spent at UNM. He said 56 cents are spent on instruction, 12 cents go toward academic support, 6 cents are spent on student services, 13 cents on institutional support and 13 cents on operations and maintenance.
Staff and faculty members were on hand to support the ERB swap, a measure that would prevent a 1.75 percent pay cut.
“Staff has not received any increase for three years,” UNM staff member Connie Dennison said. “It’s not a bad thing if it can be funded without hurting other things. The tuition increase is difficult for students so we don’t want that to happen on the backs of the students. I’m concerned about where this money is coming from. We don’t know.”
Schmidly said that he was pleased that most praised improvements to the budget process.
“There are still some things we can do to make even better next time,” he said. “And I heard they want us to go back and consider some options, so we might be able to reduce this tuition even a little more.”