Last week the Student Fee Review Board gave its recommendation on how nearly $16 million of student fees should be distributed.
The student board — made up of undergraduate and graduate students — cut nearly all of the requested budgets by 1.4 percent, citing the worsening condition of the University of New Mexico’s fiscal climate. In addition to the across-the-board cuts, there were also some larger decreases.
In their recommendation, the board made the largest cut to the athletics department, slashing the unit over $650,000.
Members of the budget leadership team — which makes final budget recommendations to the Board of Regents — were quick to scrutinize the student board’s recommended athletics cuts.
The department, which has run large budget deficits for years, will be heavily impacted by further cuts — something the student board should consider, according to one of the budget leadership team members.
Noah Brooks, president of the Associated Students of the UNM and vice-chair of the board, defended the student board’s decision to cut unit funding — especially athletics — instead of raising student fees.
“We are there to represent the student voice,” Brooks said. “This is the student voice and (these are) the student fees. If later it’s decided that other money will be taken from other units, or raised from increased student fees, then that’s not our decision.”
Even with the recommended cuts, the board proposed about a one percent increase in student fees for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
The SFRB last met in September for unit hearings, where units gave their reasoning for their requests. After that, the board had over 20 hours of deliberations. During that process, some members of the student board fought against fee increases.
“I will fight tooth and nail to not increase student fees,” said board chair Alaa Elmaoued, president of UNM’s Graduate and Professional Students Association.
“Every student is impacted by at least one of these units. And if we keep cutting these units, it’s going to cut our retention,” Brooks said.
He added that deeper cuts to units would affect students in more ways than just a fee increase.
In the end, the board came to a compromise in which they agreed to cut nearly all the units uniformly across the board and raise student fees slightly.
Though further decreases to athletics were proposed, the board was hesitant to cut more, knowing regents would likely pass over any recommendation. Specifically, the board argued more cuts would be a non-starter for regents who have traditionally approved the department’s requests, despite SFRB recommendations.
The final distribution of student fees — and any associated fee increase — will be decided in the spring budget process by the Board of Regents.
Brendon Gray is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers ASUNM. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @notgraybrendon.