The Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) segued into its interim schedule of hearings shortly after the 2014 legislative session adjourned. Its May hearings are being held at the Roundhouse, and on Wednesday afternoon, UNM was invited to brief lawmakers on the progress being made with student academic success and the internal budgeting reforms contained in Results Oriented Management (ROM). 

UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah talked about the interventions, financial help, curriculum changes and reformed advisement that promise higher graduation rates and an improved quality of education. These student success initiatives add about $3 million per year to the cost of education, which the Provost identified as short term investments that will pay off in the long term.

Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration David Harris and Associate Vice President Andrew Cullen described how ROM at UNM was originally suggested by the LFC’s 2010 performance review of UNM and NMSU.LFC analysts had recommended Responsibility-Centered Management (RCM). The UNM hybrid known as ROM makes a provision for facilities maintenance and auxiliary operations. Harris described how the University was able to identify funds for compensation increases without raising tuition. He also made a plea for a more stable, predictable funding platform to come out of the state formula, though he acknowledged the difficulty in getting all 20-plus institutions in the state to agree on what that might be.

Committee members had questions about the presentations and other topics of interest. Rep. Larry Larranaga (R-Albuquerque) wanted to know how shaving minimum degree requirements from 128 to 120 hours would work for intensive programs like engineering. The Provost said curriculums are being tightened along with degree mapping and advisement. Rep. Edward Sandoval (D-Albuquerque) had questions about lottery fund distributions, while Rep. William Gray (R-Artesia) and Rep. James White (R-Albuquerque) questioned and commented about graduates finding employment in their chosen fields, the growth of student loans, and universities having more capacity than needed to accommodate students seeking higher education.

Committee chairs Rep. Lucky Varela (D-Santa Fe) and Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming) both bemoaned getting everyone on the same “single page of music” when it comes to formula funding or even agreeing on four-year or six-year graduation rates. Smith figures there is no institutional or intestinal fortitude to get that job done.

The take-away quote of the day comes from Provost Abdallah in commenting on various interventions for student success: “We are really being a lot more intrusive in their lives.”

The interim legislative season, when more than two dozen committees hold hearings throughout the state, will fully gear up in another month or so.