The committee — which included Provost Chaouki Abdallah, Executive Vice President David Harris, ASUNM President Rachel Williams, GPSA President Texanna Martin and Frank himself — spent a day each at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado State University and toured the facilities on both campuses.
The trip was part of a larger ongoing effort to offset decreasing freshman enrollment at UNM.
Frank spoke about the purpose of the committee while giving his administrative report at the Board of Regents meeting on Friday. He said there are two factors negatively impacting UNM’s budget: PNM’s 13-percent increase in utility costs, and the international fall in oil prices.
“We don’t expect to receive any money from the legislature,” Frank said, citing volatility in oil revenues as a major strain on the state’s ability to provide funding.
While this was beyond the University’s control, Frank said, student enrollment and cost management should be the administration’s priority while balancing the budget.
“Maintaining enrollments is the single most important variable in our budget equation,” he said, explaining that freshman enrollment is down for the 2014-2015 academic year.
UNM’s Fall 2014 enrollment report shows a nearly 11-percent decrease in beginning freshman compared to Fall 2013.
Frank said the administration needs to focus on setting UNM apart from other research universities in the Southwest in order to recruit students from states like California, Arizona and Colorado. While he stressed the quality of UNM’s academic programs, he said that students look at other factors when choosing a university, including recreational facilities.
Some buildings on campus are in “devastating condition,” Frank said, noting that Johnson Gym has not been significantly renovated since he attended UNM in the 1970s.
“A decreasing pool of students raises the importance of emphasizing quality over value, with facilities being especially important,” Frank said.
He presented the Board of Regents with photographic comparisons of Johnson Gym and the recently renovated recreational facilities at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, pointing out the modern design used by those universities.
“Both facilities were renovations of older buildings, which provided great insight on options should the committee consider a renovation of Johnson Gym rather than construction of a new facility,” said Dianne Anderson, UNM’s Director of Communication.
While the committee was in Colorado, Anderson said, they spoke with administrators, students and staff to get recommendations on constructing and renovating facilities.
In addition to recreation and wellness, the committee also looked at facilities such as dining halls, residence halls and student union buildings. An emphasis was placed on gathering information about building or renovating facilities to be sustainable by meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifications.
While no official renovation plans for Johnson Gym have been announced, Frank said he would keep the regents updated on any developments that affect the budget.
Lena Guidi is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @DailyLobo.