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Friday, December 19, 2014

Regents mull tuition hikes for faculty, staff compensation

assistant-news@dailylobo.com
@ChloeHenson5

After four hours of presentations and discussion, the UNM Board of Regents decided to postpone the decision on next year’s tuition and fee rates.

At UNM’s Budget Summit on Tuesday in the Student Union Building, the regents were supposed to vote on a budget recommendation provided by President Robert Frank and the Strategic Budget Leadership Team to determine tuition and fee rates for fiscal year 2015. The regents would also have voted on compensation rates for staff and faculty.

The regents voted to postpone the decision in order to gather more information.

Regent Gene Gallegos said the regents have asked to be included in the budget-making process earlier every year in order to better understand the recommendation. He said that this year the SBLT provided information too late for the regents to ask enough questions about the budget scenarios.

The regents received three of the scenarios on Friday and another one Monday afternoon, Gallegos said.

“I don’t see how we can make decisions based on last-minute information like this,” he said.

Later in the meeting, Gallegos moved to table the item on the agenda that addressed approval of compensation, tuition and fee rates. Board of Regents President Jack Fortner declared a special meeting to be held on Friday at noon in the SUB’s Ballroom C to make a decision on the item.

President Frank said he is also unsatisfied with the process of creating recommendations for the budget.

“What I told (the SBLT) was I wanted to meet with them in the next few weeks to have a conversation about how we could improve this process dramatically to move this conversation much earlier,” he said.

Frank cited several processes used by different institutions as possible solutions. Some of the president’s suggestions included delaying the decision for later in the school year or having a conversation about the budget earlier, and then coming back to the discussion later to make a final decision.

The SBLT gathers information from students, staff, deans, faculty, the Regents Academic/Student Affairs & Research Committee and the Regents Finance & Facilities Committee, according to a document delineating the SBLT charge. The SBLT then offers a recommendation to the president, who then makes a recommendation to the Board of Regents, according to the document.

The regents brought up several concerns about the recommendation during the meeting, including a proposed increase in tuition that would be used to pay for a raise in compensation for staff and faculty.

Regent Suzanne Quillen said raising tuition year after year is not a sustainable way to solve issues at the University.

“We are just, every year, putting a band-aid on a very large problem,” she said.

Quillen said the regents should think outside the box to get money for compensating staff and faculty.

But Provost Chaouki Abdallah said increasing compensation could retain faculty and help students in the long run.

“The students are not just our customers in this — they’re our partners in this,” he said. “We can’t teach them if they don’t learn. Therefore, part of this is for them, for us to be able to help them by providing them with more support.”

Abdallah said the cost of UNM’s education is still relatively low, considering the value students receive from their educations. He said investing in faculty now would act as a trade-off and help students later.

Gallegos said he hopes that regents will be more involved in the process of making the budget recommendations in the future.

“I won’t be here,” he said. “But I hope in the future the rest of these members are put into the process at least a couple of months before this process is done.”