UNM’s $2.9 billion budget was unanimously approved by Regents on Tuesday.
The approved budget plans for $833 million in total revenues and an equal amount of expenses, resulting in a 1.9 percent overall decrease compared to last year.
In his administrative report to Regents, Interim President Chaouki Abdallah said decreases in state funding and Lottery Scholarship support were primary drivers of the revenue reduction.
To counter the revenue decreases, the budget team prepared spending reductions, including: continued workforce reduction, a continued hiring freeze and cost containment initiatives.
Increased student fees and a change in tuition structure were also implemented to counteract shrinking state contributions.
Part of those changes include an $18 per credit hour premium for upper level courses - courses level 300 and above - and a 7.3 percent student fee increase.
The tuition change did not bring the budget to a perfect balance, however. Though budget leaders proposed an upper level course premium of $23 per credit hour, Regents chose an $18 per credit hour hike.
Their vote left a $1.1 million deficit for administrators to fill. That deficit, paired with other revenue decreases, left a total hole of $3 million for budget leaders to make up between the May 24 budget summit and Tuesday’s budget approval.
The revised budget included $200,000 in upper administration salary decreases, a $1.6 million decrease after staff reorganization and attrition and a one-time use of $1 million from the University’s reserves.
The $3 million deficit is just a forecast, however, and depends on final enrollment figures, Abdallah said, adding “enrollment is the great unknown.”
He also emphasized the decrease in Lottery Scholarship coverage — which recently fell from 90 percent to 60 percent of tuition coverage — could mean fewer students enrolling.
After the decrease, students could face a $1,500 out-of-pocket increase for the next school year, according to early estimates.
In the presentation Abdallah relayed to Regents the budget team had prepared a two percent enrollment cushion based on projected enrollment decreases. However, he did not dismiss the threat a sharper decrease poses.
“If the two percent (enrollment decrease) is there, then we’re fine” he told Regents. “If it goes to five percent, then we’re in trouble.”
Despite the deficits, Abdallah emphasized UNM’s affordability and academic resilience.
“UNM provides a high quality education and, we believe, at a reasonable cost,” Abdallah told Regents during his presentation, adding the university achieved record highs in its rate of four-year graduation and freshman retention. The 2016-17 academic year also saw a record number of degrees awarded, he said.
“We’ve done all this not by filtering people out, but by bringing people up,” Abdallah said.
Abdallah also committed to a detailed budget presentation for Regents in September. Then enrollment and student aid figures will have been finalized. Included in that report will be a complete report on all balances, he said.
Regent President Rob Doughty ended the meeting by commending those who worked to finalize the budget.
“I want to thank the faculty, staff, and students,” he said, speaking of the budget leadership team which began work in the fall of 2016.
“We want to continue to support what good we’re going here,” Doughty said.
Brendon Gray is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @notgraybrendon.