The UNM Board of Regents unanimously rejected two recommendations to increase tuition by 2% and 3%, respectively, for the 2023-24 school year.
On Monday, April 10, the Board was presented with three fiscal recommendations drafted by UNM’s Budget and Leadership team. Ultimately, they approved recommendation 3, the only option which did not include a raise in tuition, with the only major student-wide change being increases in student fees, which the other options also included.
Regents’ chair Kim Sanchez Rael said that this push came from a desire to keep the University’s tuition affordable.
“I believe it is important to keep our undergraduate education affordable to our student population, and that was really the overriding principle for me,” Sanchez Rael said.
Sanchez Rael said that a tuition raise would ignore alternative streams of revenue that the University has neglected considering. She brought up the option of performing studies for the private sector. Sanchez Rael mentioned several studies that she tried to contract UNM for that fell through or were struck down by the school and sent out to other institutions.
Sanchez Rael also brought up campaigning and working at the state level to secure more funding for the school without resorting to an increase. Shaikh Ahmad, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association, said that the group has been rallying the state to continue supporting the institution.
“I think that we can keep tuition at its current level and still fund the important things, compensation and strategic initiatives that we have at the University. I think we have an opportunity to be more innovative on how we identify new revenue streams for the University, so I’m not overly concerned about that, I think we can do that,” Sanchez Rael said.
Sanchez Rael said that keeping tuition affordable will be key to avoid a crisis in the upcoming years leading up to the “demographic cliff” in which the decreased amount of students born during and after the recession will enter college, leading to significantly decreased enrollment.
“As we face the demographic enrollment cliff that not only New Mexico, but all the states are facing … the number of students coming into the higher ed system (will decline),” Sanchez Rael said. “We see that coming, and we need to be more creative in how we lead the institution through some challenging times ahead — part of that is making sure we stay affordable.”
Already, 34 universities have announced or completed closures or mergers since March 2020, with numbers peaking in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Sanchez Rael. Tuition increases are also expected at private institutions for the 2023-24 academic year, with the most notable increase of 7% coming out of Stanford University, according to Forbes.
“There is no doubt that lower tuition is beneficial for enrollment and retention. However, it comes with a trade-off that sometimes as students we are not able to see. While it is economically comfortable, it also means less investment in critical components like student experience, emergency resources and, above all, quality of education,” Ahmad said.
The Albuquerque Journal also reported that the University will be scaling back several projects in the STEM programs as well as campus safety. Ahmad feels that, to a certain extent, a tuition increase is inevitable and that delaying it may lead to a steeper increase in the years to come.
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“Given our current economic climate, any increase could be perceived as challenging. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the price of goods and services gradually increases over time, and higher education is no different. Therefore, several years of 0% tuition increase may lead to a significant increase in tuition in the future,” Ahmad said.
Still, Sanchez Rael sees this “chaos” overtaking higher education as a chance for the University to get creative with how they source funding and become a beacon of affordable education.
“If we do this right, as things get worse around the country, we can be a shining star of affordable, high-quality higher education that people are drawn to,” Sanchez Rael said.
Zara Roy is the copy chief at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle