Editor's Note: The original headline for this article read "Student orgs face cuts across the board." However the units that faced cuts were not student organizations. The headline has been changed to "On-campus groups face cuts across the board" to better reflect the article's content. The Daily Lobo apologizes for any confusion.
Rising fees, shrinking budgets and a spike in tuition — these will all be discussed at the University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents Annual Budget Summit on March 22 starting at 9 a.m.
The regents will have the opportunity to decide on tuition, fees and recommendations from the Student Fee Review Board during the summit for the next fiscal year, according to their agenda.
SFRB consists of five undergraduate and two graduate students who make recommendations for how student fees should be distributed to departments and resource centers across campus.
Alaa Elmaoued, the president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association and the chair of SFRB, said the amount SFRB allots to different entities is based on how much money is available and the projected amount of student fees for the following year.
This year SFRB implemented universal financial cuts to all units, with some experiencing larger cuts than others.
Elmaoued said each unit received cuts, because student enrollment has continued to decrease each year.
The first action SFRB made was to implement a 1 to 1.5 percent cut to every unit’s actuals — the amount of money a unit spent after reductions — from the previous fiscal year, said Noah Brooks, the president of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico and the vice chair of SFRB.
Student Health & Counseling is one resource that did not experience any proposed cuts by SFRB. After the universal cut, the board allotted enough money to bring the SHAC’s amount back to what it received last year, $4.63 million.
Elmaoued said SFRB kept the SHAC’s allotment, because it is a resource that benefits the entire student body, and there is not a similar center on campus.
He said SFRB also tried to avoid additional cuts to “ethnic resource centers” after the universal cut, because those centers are vital to students who utilize them.
KUNM, a National Public Radio affiliate located on the UNM campus, requested $10,000 less than what they received last fiscal year, which SFRB honored, allotting roughly $51,000 to the station.
Theatre and Dance
Theatre and Dance was one unit that faced substantial cuts — 62 percent to be exact. Brooks said SFRB made its decision based partly off of what was in the department’s SFRB reserves.
He said the department requested $25,000, but had $40,000 in their SFRB reserves — the board recommended $10,000 to keep the department in the SFRB process.
The board cut costumes, because Brooks said they can be reused and are just for students in theatre and dance. He said in other departments, items similar to costumes would receive funding from the Instructional & General fund, or ING — a general fund that is separate from student fees and relies on student tuition and state funding.
Athletics also faced hefty cuts.
The department requested $4.5 million — $500,000 more than it received last year — and SFRB recommended about $3.3 million, Brooks said.
The first cut Athletics received was a universal cut. That brought the department down to their actual from the previous fiscal year, which was about $3.8 million, he said. The rest of the cuts came down to the logistics of what the department was requesting.
Originally, the department requested $900 per athlete for textbook scholarships with around 470 athletes at the time of the request, totaling to just above $420,000.
Because not every athlete uses textbooks or receives a textbook scholarship, SFRB cut the number to $300 per athlete, Brooks said. This was based on a scenario that all 470 athletes received an equal textbook scholarship, resulting in a cut of about $280,000.
Another request that saw a significant cut was one for $250,000. Brooks said SFRB was told this line item would help send athletes home if there was a family emergency or a similar event.
He said SFRB decided to cut this $250,000 completely because of the NCAA Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund, which gives funding to universities for the situations laid out in the line item.
Budget Leadership Team recommendations
After making recommendations, SFRB sends their numbers to the Budget Leadership Team who make revisions before the Budget Summit.
This year, in light of a further decrease in student enrollment, BLT had to implement another across-the-board cut on top of SFRB’s, Elmaoued said.
Although the SHAC remained untouched by SFRB’s cuts, their fate was not the same with BLT. The center suffered a roughly $150,000 cut, ending up with a recommendation of about $4.5 million.
KUNM was also hit by the universal cut of about $2,500 making their overall cut slightly more than the $10,000 cut they requested.
Athletics fell to around $3.18 million. This decrease was substituted in another way, however.
BLT decreased the student fees the University Library Acquisitions received by $500,000, and funneled those funds back into Athletics. This totals to a $3.68 million recommendation for Athletics — a roughly $320,000 cut from what the regents approved during the summit for fiscal year 2017-2018, which is about $170,000 less than the fiscal year 2017-2018 actual.
To alleviate the University Libraries’ loss in student fees, BLT allotted money from ING fund to make up the difference, Elmaoued said.
“They kind of moved things around in a way I don’t agree,” he said. “I (personally) don’t like it at all.”
Brooks said because the regents repeatedly allocate $4 million to Athletics each year, raising the recommendation from $3.3 million to $3.8 million shows compromise and possibly prevents regents from increasing student fees solely for Athletics or cutting funding from other entities.
Student fee recommendations
Students fees are directly related to student enrollment — a decrease in enrollment means a decrease in fees collected, and therefore less money to allocate to departments and centers at UNM.
As a result of another expected decrease in enrollment next year, Brooks said SFRB recommended raising student fees by $20.10 total for undergraduates who are taking 15 credit hours. This is based on a $1.34 increase per credit hour.
The BLT raised this recommendation to $22.20 based on a $1.48 increase per credit hour for undergraduates taking 15 credit hours.
Across the board, there is a proposed 2.5 percent increase in student tuition. After the base raise, each student could potentially see an increase of up to 5.5 percent, according to Nicole Dopson, director of Financial Operations.
Of the projected $4.4 million gained through the tuition increase, roughly $1.8 million will go to “direct student investments,” Brooks said.
These investments include campus safety, financial aid, tuition waivers and a graduate teaching fellows program, Brooks said.
With more money allotted to financial aid, students who cannot afford a tuition increase will not be negatively affected, Brooks said. Students and families that can afford a bump in tuition will pay the full amount. Students who are in the middle of these categories will receive increases based on financial ability.
Brooks said the $500,000 toward safety will go toward LoboRESPECT, lights and cameras, along with creating and sustaining a UNM Police Department security director, who will alleviate some of the many duties current UNMPD officers are facing.
Elmaoued said that because students at UNM are receiving a “world-class” education, increasing tuition is necessary, but not until the resource centers and departments are held financially responsible.
Brooks said that this fiscal year, entities receiving money from student fees are now required to keep a record of exactly what the fees go toward. If departments spend money on unapproved items, they run the risk of being excluded from the SFRB process, he said.
Vice President of ASUNM Sally Midani called the final recommendations as a “good of the whole type budget.”
“A lot of thought went into every aspect, and it’s obviously not ideal for anyone,” she said. “I think there are a lot of areas that took big cuts...We had to compromise, but everyone did in some aspect.”
Madison Spratto is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.