Focus will shift to the University of New Mexico budget, following this year’s legislative session.
UNM’s appropriations from the 54th New Mexico Legislature saw an increase in general funding, and more money for the Department of Athletics. However, the University is still facing enrollment shortfalls — that means less in tuition and student fees, and pressure on teacher and staff salaries.
According to House Bill 2 (HB 2), this year UNM received $188 million from the State General Fund, which goes directly to the Instruction and General purpose fund (I&G). Those funds are used for supporting the academic mission of the University.
That’s $6.5 million in new money. This was a 3.5 percent increase from 2018’s $182 million amount.
Interim Provost Richard Wood said before the session’s end that the University is strapped for cash.
“Core academic funding is just really scarce,” Wood said in a late February interview. “$24 million less in the I&G fund means we do that much less with our academics.”
Wood, at the time, expressed a desire for more new money than the University has now received.
“What’s in HB 2 is about 2 percent for Higher Education,” Wood said at the time. “But we’d like to see more like 8 percent.”
Woods attributed that the crunch in Higher Education has been a decrease in money available since the recession.
“Over 10 years there has been (less money) in the Roundhouse,” Wood said. “ An important statistic is that 44 percent of those budget cuts fell on Higher Education.”
Athletics was given $3.7 million and a $1.1 million increase from 2018’s state appropriation. The agreement brokered between the Senate and the House of Representatives. This puts them just above with the New Mexico State University appropriation for athletics which was $3.6 million.
Athletics’ total budget decreased by nearly $1 million — from $33.2 million in 2018 to $32.3 million for the total 2019 budget was attributed to a decrease in unspecified “Other State Funds” on the appropriation.
Athletics became a point of contention between the Senate and House versions of the budget, and had to be negotiated during the last few days of the Legislature. The conference committee version allows the University to choose whether to use the Athletics general appropriation to incorporate the four sports cut from the program last year.
This compromise differed dramatically from a House version of the bill, which said the General Fund use with contingent on the re-institution of the cut sports.
A previous Daily Lobo article tracked some initiatives affecting higher education. The only bill from that list to make it to the governor’s table was HB 127, Rep. G. Andrés Romero, D-Albuquerque, which amended the College Affordability Act. Eligible students will now receive scholarships up to $1,500, instead of the previous $1,000 maximum.
The annual budget summit to discuss the University’s finances for fiscal year 2020-2021 will be held Friday, April 5.
Kyle Land contributed to this report.
Danielle Prokop is a senior reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ProkopDani.