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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lobo Letter

Quality over quantity, at least for the price and value of a UNM degree

Staff Council President
scpresident@unm.edu

Let’s talk ice cream! In my younger days, Baskin Robbins was the place to go for delicious, high-quality ice cream. True, it cost a bit more than the local drugstore, but the difference was all in the taste, texture and smile on my face. The few extra cents back then was well worth it.

I would like to share with you a quote that lurks in the back of my mind every time I am deciding where to invest my hard-earned dollars: “There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.” I’ve always believed that it is worth paying more when you are getting something better. Quality is essential to me, both personally and professionally.

Now let us talk education.

UNM offers a great product, which is a leading education. UNM is a nationally recognized research institution offering an education at a fraction of the cost found elsewhere. Its history includes a plethora of graduates who moved on and moved up to great places — U.S. Senator Tom Udall; former governor Gary Johnson; former state treasurer James B. Lewis. Our faculty of more than 2,000 prepares students well to succeed in life.

A UNM education is a great product, but it is certainly not priced that way.

It is no secret that annual earning potential significantly increases with each level of higher education attained. Those with associate degrees have the potential to earn more than high school graduates; those with baccalaureate degrees have the potential to earn more than those who hold associate degrees; and those with terminal degrees have potential to earn more than all others. Couple that knowledge with the outstanding education students receive at UNM and the term value comes into play.

Earlier this month, U.S. News and World Report released its Best Graduate Schools ranking for 2015. Highlighting just a few, UNM School of Medicine’s rural medicine program ranked 2nd against University of Washington ($29,958 in-state, full-time tuition) and University of Minnesota ($37,869 in-state, full-time tuition). Family medicine tied for 9th with Duke University ($49,940 full-time tuition). UNM’s Law School clinical training program ranked 9th above Stanford University ($52,530 full-time tuition). UNM’s College of Fine Arts photography program ranked 5th between California Institute of the Arts ($38,438 annual tuition) and Rochester Institute of Technology ($38,688 annual tuition).

A UNM education is a quality education at about $16,200 per year. On average, that is a difference of $25,000 less per year.

To me, that is a valuable education.

There are many paths that UNM takes to maintain as low a tuition rate as possible. In addition to the state and the NM Legislature, a portion of this valuable education is subsidized by those you least expect: UNM’s staff members. Part of the value that students are receiving is at the expense of staff and faculty compensation.

UNM’s regents are in a position to minimally raise tuition cost in order to help cover more of a student’s portion of their valuable education. This would allow dollars to be reinvested in UNM’s human capital and raise their value.

We are asking the regents to balance the easy political choice of not raising tuition with the difficult financial reality being faced by the UNM staff and faculty whose future depends on them. A small tuition increase to an already below-average cost of education will allow the staff and faculty to maybe break even on their family budgets. It would ease the worry of many, allowing us to continue to focus on student success, and bring a little of the joy back to the educational process.