SUB BALLROOM — Unanimously and without debate, the University of New Mexico greenlit a tuition and fee raise on Monday, March 9. The decision continued a multi-year trend of increasing the cost of attendance at New Mexico's flagship public institution.
The total cost bump is $125.08 per semester for an undergraduate taking 12 credit hours, which is considered full-time. For graduate students, the increase is $156.72 per semester for those taking 12 credit hours.
The Board of Regents — UNM's ultimate decision-making body — also reduced the undergraduate block discount, from essentially three free credit hours when taking at least 15 credit hours to one-and-a-half free credit hours.
Monday’s decision follows years of tuition and fee increases at UNM. Since 2010, undergraduates pay about 24% more — or $598.86— compared to 2020, according to data from the UNM Bursar's Office.
Over that same period, UNM's enrollment has plummeted.
Since enrollment peaked in 2013, UNM has grappled with the effects of having 23% less undergraduates on campus. The loss of nearly one-fourth of the undergraduate population has caused budget shortfalls across all academic departments and decimated the finances of student government.
While UNM has undergone branding changes and remodeled buildings to try and convince prospective students to enroll, administrators regularly cite the University's comparatively low cost as a prime reason to choose New Mexican higher education.
UNM Vice President of Enrollment Management Dan Garcia said Monday's tuition and fee hike won't change that.
"The average (cost of attendance at a) public four-year university in Colorado — just north of us — is $11,500," Garcia said. "We're still going to be below $9,000 in terms of paying tuition and fees."
UNM Provost James Holloway told the Regents that no increase in tuition was considered, but they ultimately scrapped it because it would require $20 million in additional budget cuts.
The Regents also adopted a 4% raise in staff and faculty compensation. The modest pay raise comes five months after UNM's faculty voted overwhelmingly to unionize under United Academics of UNM (UA-UNM).
Faculty adorned in UA-UNM T-shirts dotted the back of the Student Union ballroom during the Regents' meeting. Members of UA-UNM said they supported the raise, but it didn't go far enough. UNM Faculty Governance President Finnie Coleman agreed.
"This is a very serious issue that is long overdue for a direct resolution from the Regents and the administration," Coleman said, eliciting applause from the dozen or so union representatives in attendance.
'Reading the tea leaves from Santa Fe' — the 2021 budget questions still unanswered
"We don't really have a budget in front of us," Regent Rob Schwartz told the Daily Lobo on Monday. "We just have this broad outline of the budget."
Schwartz said there will likely be more discussion about the budget, especially regarding the 3.7% in budget cuts, at the upcoming Regents meeting on May 12.
Schwartz, along with the rest of UNM, are waiting for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham's approval or reduction of the amount of money UNM will receive from the state in this year's budget bill.
UNM estimated the state will provide around $200 million — about 61% of UNM's 2021 revenues — according to budget documents.
Another lingering unknown is the $4.4 million Athletics Department deficit — and if it will be eliminated by the state.
The language of the budget bill would effectively eliminate the long-standing deficit. When UNM cut four sports from its roster in 2018, administrators argued it would reduce spending and help curtail the deficit.
The Governor has until March 11 to sign or veto the state's budget, according to the Governor's Press Secretary Nora Sackett.
Justin Garcia is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Just516garc