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Regents pass tuition increase, faculty raise

Despite frustration from its new members, the UNM Board of Regents on Wednesday unanimously passed the 2003-04 fiscal year budget which includes a 4.5 percent increase in tuition and fees and a 3 percent increase in faculty salaries.

All undergraduate and graduate students can expect their tuition to increase 4.5 percent, which translates to an extra $144 for undergraduates and $158.40 for graduate students per academic year; while resident medical students will encounter a 10 percent increase, which would mean a $947 increase. According to University figures, $25 of the total tuition and fee increase will be added to the total fees already dedicated to the Student Health Center.

Julie Weaks Gutierrez, vice president for business and finance, said the main reason for the tuition increase is due to a 4 percent tuition credit that the Legislature built into its allocation plan for the University.

A tuition credit is a percentage of funding the Legislature reduces from the University’s operating budget that, Weaks Gutierrez said, UNM is expected to make up in a tuition increase.

Weaks Gutierrez said that most of the tuition increase will go toward making up that tuition credit.

UNM faculty members will receive a 3 percent pay increase and $175,000 will be allocated to fund faculty promotions. Staff members will also receive an extra $350 to “help offset the increase in the cost-of-living,” according to the budget packet.

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An increase in faculty and staff salaries has been a point of contention for the University for several years. At Wednesday’s meeting, UNM Earth and Planetary Sciences Professor John Geissman pointed out that one of his students will go on this year to make more money than he does.

He said that the faculty pay is at “the bottom of the barrel” and that he is only one of many faculty members who feel the same way.

Faculty Senate President Beverly Burris concurred with Geissman, saying that while a 3 percent increase is better than 2.5 percent, which is what the State Legislature allocated, it doesn’t even make a dent in salary discrepancies.

Burris said that unless something is done, UNM will begin losing faculty members who do not necessarily want to leave.

“We do have a lot of faculty with strong national and international reputations working here because they love the state,” Burris said.

Reg. James Koch led a discussion among the regents about what could be done about this problem. He said that during the past two weeks, he went over the budget figures to see if he could find any additional funds to allocate to faculty pay increase, but realized that the 2003-04 funding is a done deal.

“I really don’t have any choice today,” Koch said.

He added that faculty pay raises must be the first priority during the next budget process and that he doesn’t want to see a repeat of low pay increases for faculty next time.

“I hope we’re not sitting back here next year with the same scenario,” Koch said.

Reg. Sandra Begay-Campbell echoed Koch’s disappointment.

“Having done this two times, this is the most frustrating meeting I attend all year,” Begay-Campbell said.

She added that she sees much hope with a new UNM president and a new governor and lieutenant governor to lead the way. Begay-Campbell said that she thinks many priorities will be addressed in the coming year.

“It’s a long process and is so slow to change,” she said. “But I see some change on the horizon.”

Reg. Mel Eaves, who replaced Reg. Donald Salazar who died March 28, expressed his own frustration at coming in so late in the budget process.

“I don’t think I have any alternative this year, but I would like to become more involved next year,” Eaves said.

Included in next year’s budget will also be a 3 percent increase in stipends for graduate and teachings assistants.

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