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Friday, December 19, 2014

Support UNM, get free lunch

UNM groups are preparing for their day at the Roundhouse to rally in favor of students and the broader University community.

Before students, parents and alumni head to Santa Fe for UNM Day at the Legislature on Jan 31, GPSA has been surveying students and holding workshops to get a better idea of where students stand on issues such as the tuition tax credit and research grants.

Travis McIntyre, GPSA Lobby Committee co-chair, said he hopes UNM Day will show legislators the importance of supporting the University this legislative session.

“We especially like students to speak with legislators from their district so that the legislators put a face to UNM and understand that UNM serves the entire state,” McIntyre said. 

ASUNM, the UNM Parent Association and UNM Alumni Association are among the other groups that will represent the University at the event.

McIntyre said GPSA is watching the progress of the State Graduate Employment Tax Credit, a bill that aims to create job opportunities in New Mexico for graduate and professional students.

Sen. Tim Keller (D, Bernalillo) is sponsoring the bill, which would provide a $5,000 tax credit to employers who hire New Mexico college graduates in science, technology, engineering, health and math-related fields.

The GPSA is also working to pass a senate appropriation of $100,000 to fund graduate and professional research, McIntyre said. He said that if the bill passes, GPSA students can apply for a grant of up to $5,000 to support their research projects.

ASUNM will provide students free round-trip Rail Runner tickets, a free lunch at Tomasita’s Restaurant in Santa Fe and a letter from Interim Dean of Students Kim Kloeppel excusing students from class to all undergraduate students who RSVP to attend UNM Day, said Florencio Olguin, ASUNM executive director of Governmental Affairs.

“Overall, the more students that attend UNM Day, the better our chance of being successful in our lobbying efforts,” he said. ”Legislators would rather hear from the students than administrators who represent us.”

ASUNM’s 2012 legislative priorities include continuing the Lottery Scholarship, eliminating the tuition tax credit, creating a new commuter shuttle and improving lighting on campus, Olguin said.

“We have postcards in the ASUNM office that students can fill out talking about how the Lottery (Scholarship) has helped them in their undergraduate academic career at UNM,” he said. “This will positively impact UNM students by showing our legislators that we, as students, are appreciative of the Lottery and that it helps foster success.”

The Parent Association will also bus groups of interested parents to Santa Fe for UNM Day, Parent Association President Maria Probasco said.

“We must all take responsibility and become involved in education in order for our students to succeed,” she said. “The general public must be prepared to hold their elected representatives accountable and ask themselves how many more generations of New Mexico students are they willing to see fail and fall through the cracks when they cast their vote.”

The Parent Association also plans to focus on encouraging legislators to eliminate the tuition tax credit, continue the New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship and distribute funds fairly among four-year and two-year institutions of higher education, Probasco said.

“If we are successful in this effort, students, parents and education will benefit for years to come,” Probasco said.

UNM Day at the New Mexico State Legislative Session

The Issues:

The Tuition Tax Credit — The tax credit is a percentage of each student’s tuition that UNM must pay to the legislature. This means UNM doesn’t receive the full amount of tuition each student pays and must raise tuition to compensate. The tuition tax for the 2010-11 school year was 5 percent, which means 5 percent of each student’s tuition went to the legislature where it is not required to be spent on higher education. UNM groups hope to convince state legislators to eliminate the tuition credit during this year’s UNM day at the legislature.

Legislative Lottery Scholarship — Members of the Legislative Finance Committee have questioned the viability of the Legislative Lottery Scholarship funds, which they predict will be in the red by 2014. UNM groups hope to convince state legislators to prioritize maintaining the scholarship fund in upcoming years.
SB 16, State Graduate Employment Tax Credit— This bill proposes a $5,000 tax credit to employers who hire New Mexico college graduates in science, technology, engineering, health and math-related fields.