In the wake of a nearly $30 million dollar cut from the state, the University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents voted to adjust the University’s budget in a special meeting on Tuesday.
The new budget held the previously approved tuition hike in place.
The total cost hike is still $125.08 per semester for a full-time undergraduate taking 12 credit hours. For graduate students, the increase is $156.72 per semester for those taking 12 credit hours, as reported in the Daily Lobo after the regents approved the increase at their March 10 meeting.
ASUNM President Mia Amin mentioned in her comments before the regents voted that UNM students have circulated a petition with over 4,700 signatures calling for a reduction in tuition costs. She explained that students believed the diminished quality of instruction in online classes coupled with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic justified a reduction in tuition.
UNM President Garnett Stokes acknowledged the call for lower tuition but said that existing tuition levels are necessary due to the cuts from the state.
“We have heard about and understand the financial hardships that students have been facing due to COVID-19, and UNM remains dedicated to making an excellent four-year education accessible to all New Mexicans,” Stokes said. “As state funding levels have declined, we are looking to implement a $30 million budget reduction, making existing tuition levels necessary to operation.”
Stokes also highlighted resources that are available to students.
“We offer generous financial aid to 80% of our students and work hard to ensure that cost is not a barrier to attendance — our continued commitment to the Lobo First Year Promise is one example,” Stokes said.
In a similar vein, GPSA President Nikhil Reddy asked the regents to consider only imposing tuition increases on incoming students rather than existing students because it would help students prepare financially for the cost of their degrees before they — in the case of international students — move to a new country.
“We appreciate GPSA President Reddy’s thoughtful suggestion, but have not examined such a tuition differential proposal,” Stokes said in an email to the Daily Lobo. “This particular type of model would be more appropriate in an environment where public universities can rely upon steady growth in state funds.”
Earlier in the meeting, President Stokes and Provost James Paul Holloway addressed the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Holloway said that when making cuts, the University’s top priority was to “protect the critical core missions of providing education, creating new knowledge, developing creative works, providing patient care and public service.”
He also said that the administration recognized that the public health crisis may “exacerbate inequality” and said the University was committed to making decisions to “protect our most vulnerable students, staff and faculty and continue to ensure social mobility for our students.”
Holloway estimated that there are currently about 1,000 staff members working on campus. He went on to predict that there would be approximately 5,500-6,000 people on campus in the fall.
“We expect 2,500-3,000 to be working, 2,000 in housing and 1,000 students in classes for this fall,” Holloway said.
Pre-pandemic UNM typically saw 30,000 people on campus during a normal work day.
But college students use campus spaces for more than just classes — for some, universities provide essential amenities they would not otherwise have access to.
"We discovered last spring that students need study space, access to the internet and access to safe housing," Holloway said.
With regard to students who normally plan to live on campus, Regent Kimberly Sanchez Rael asked Stokes what information is being shared with students to ensure they can make housing decisions for the fall.
Stokes demurred, saying "we are preparing our communications."
President Stokes and Provost Holloway reassured the regents that budget decisions were not made lightly.
“We want our students and campus community to know that UNM leadership has been and will continue to be thoughtful about the budget strategies we implement over coming weeks and months, aligning our efforts with the principles discussed today, “ Stokes said.
Lissa Knudsen is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @lissaknudsen