The University of New Mexico’s lowering enrollment and the impact it will have dominated discussion during the Board of Regents meeting on Tuesday.
Whether the conversation focused on faculty retention or withering revenue, the University’s dip in student population — especially among incoming freshman — seemed to be on the minds of every speaker.
The most startling moments of the nearly three-hour-long meeting came during Interim Provost Richard Wood’s presentation before the regents. He outlined what the losses of the enrollment drop would be, and the possible ramifications that could come from it.
According to the Official Enrollment Reporter for UNM, enrollment dropped a total of 7.17 percent from 2017. In the past five years, enrollment has dropped a total of 12.54 percent.
Wood said the decreased amount of students has led to a $7.6 million shortfall in tuition collected, coinciding with a $2.1 million shortfall in student fees, which will have a direct impact on organizations that rely on student fees for funding. He added that these organizations would face budget cuts up to 12 percent if they were fully implemented.
Wood said many academic departments at UNM could not handle further cuts, adding that many are spending around 90 percent of their budgets on salaries.
Regent Michael Brasher asked Wood if departments have been cut beyond functionability.
“Indeed, we are at risk of being exactly there,” Wood said. “We are not currently eliminating departments. If we had to impose these full cuts, and a further round of cuts next year if tuition fell again, we could well be at that point.”
Wood also discussed the need for future financial planning and how lowering enrollment may affect the University in future years.
“Fewer freshmen does mean fewer sophomores next year,” Wood said. “We have to build that into our modeling.”
Terry Babbitt, the associate vice president of Enrollment Management, spoke to the regents about his department’s efforts to prevent enrollment rates from continuing to drop. He said one way is by addressing campus safety.
“It comes up every day on our campus tours,” Babbitt said.
When Regent Suzanne Quillen asked if the new freshman living requirement — which requires incoming freshmen 30 miles outside of UNM to live on campus — is negatively affecting enrollment, Babbitt said its impact was very minimal.
“That came up as not an issue,” Babbitt said.
Campus safety was also addressed by President Garnett Stokes during her Administrative Report, during which she referenced the two recent carjackings that occurred on UNM’s main campus.
Stokes said the University is tackling the problem by adding more UNM Police Department officers on an overtime basis and the proposed installation of 235 cameras in 39 parking lots around campus. She said the cameras will be installed to combat UNM’s notorious auto theft problem and will be funded using capital outlay.
Stokes mentioned possible future ideas to tackle on-campus crime, including the creation of campus accessibility hours for visitors.
“This is something we’re going to have to carefully examine,” Stokes said.
One topic that came up repeatedly was faculty retention and compensation. Currently, UNM’s faculty pay falls behind most other competitors as reported by the Albuquerque Journal, leading many professors to leave before they reach tenure.
According to Wood’s presentation, faculty salaries at UNM fall far below that of comparable universities. When compared to UNM’s 22 defined peer institutions, who represent main competitors for recruiting faculty, UNM’s salaries are far less: 18 percent less for professors, 12 percent less for associate professors and 6 percent less for assistant professors, a population the University struggles to retain.
Pamela Pyle, president of UNM’s Faculty Senate, spoke to the regents on the need for salaries to be adjusted to the current cost of living.
“Faculty don’t come to UNM to get the highest salaries,” Pyle said. “That would be silly.”
Faculty did receive a small raise last semester, but Pyle said in an interview with the Daily Lobo the 0.94 percent raise still puts their salaries way below the median of professors around the country.
“I think this is an ongoing effort,” she said.
Kyle Land is the editor-in-chief for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.