UNM president Robert Frank said recently that if his school does not get the contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories, it would risk becoming like Central New Mexico Community College. Well, I think that becoming like CNM would not be a bad idea. We need more CNMs than UNMs, in my opinion.
Frank and the UNM regents should give up the idea of taking over the Sandia National Laboratories management. The rise in tuition for the lowest income students in the state at UNM and other research universities, reported by the Albuquerque Journal, shows we have become more regressive than progressive in our solutions.
The theory back in the 90s was that by bringing in high tech research dollars to UNM, the administration could skim off the top 15-25% for running the school and for making tuition lower. Supposedly, this was how the University of California became so wealthy, by managing the nation’s nuclear weapons complex at Los Alamos. This approach has failed there and here too.
What has happened instead is that state taxpayers have spent a lot of money building expensive labs, buying equipment and hiring high-price faculty for what is basically corporate and military research contract work of the type that the federal government had done at Los Alamos. The private sector has taken advantage of this and cut back its own basic investment into research and economic development.
Maybe it is time to rethink all of education and to ask who should benefit from our tax dollars: the poorest and working people of the state as students, or corporations seeking profit maximization with state subsidies, all in the name of creating jobs.
If CNM is creating dual level high school and college courses to help the real needs of our students, maybe UNM and CNM could cooperate in providing basic higher education at an affordable cost. There is a lot of overlap all across the state in higher education that could be made more cost efficient, it seems.
One has to realize that many of CNM’s students are also going to UNM because they cannot afford the education prices at a research university. I see them in my classes semester after semester at CNM.
UNM should be cut lose to become a skilled trades research center for corporations, medical insurance companies and the military, and not pretend to be performing educational functions. We should change its name to UNM, Inc to help make it clear. It is wrong to try to equate research by an English professor, for instance, as the same as expensive research into physics and the hard sciences.
Remember that at one time after FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, there were many state universities offering free higher education in the U.S. The last one, Cooper Union in New York City, is now ending its free education program and students are occupying the school in protest. The path we have been on is not working and going further down that road is wrong. We need more CNMs providing real education and not research universities, which serve outside corporate interests. Most of all we need to bring back the Second Bill of Rights and set our sights on its agenda and not the one we are on now.
Robert L. Anderson