The Tuesday morning session, when the New Mexico Department of Higher Education presented its funding wish list, evolved into a wide-ranging, sometimes lively discussion on topics like funding formula stabilization, disagreement over performance measures and hold harmless for non-performers, the proliferation of institutions, lack of student preparedness, diluted work ethics, tepid recruitment, meager job availability, stifling regulations and even Santa Fe’s (over)involvement with governance.

There were points to be gleaned from all that. Representing the four year institutions, New Mexico Tech President Dan Lopez noted that while everyone wants to see more degrees awarded in the shortest possible time, it’s important to put emphasis on quality degrees (bachelors and graduate) that meet workplace needs. 

Compensation is the greatest funding priority of the four-year schools, where young faculty recruitment and retention comprise the greatest need. Lopez also listed one-time technology funding to pay for software, training and data storage, as well as a regulation change that would allow capital outlay to help pay for planning.

The compensation plea met with sympathy from some committee members who pledged more conversation. No one talked dollars.

UNM Health Sciences Center
Chancellor Dr. Paul Roth presented the needs and wants of the HSC to committee members very interested in the state’s healthcare workforce. Along those lines, the HSC seeks $1 million for faculty retention as well as the third year of support for residency expansion.

HSC also wants to establish a Center for Childhood Maltreatment, among other items.Committee members said they’ll be looking at more dollars for expansion of the nursing workforce.

Legislative Lottery Scholarship
Higher Education Secretary Dr. Barbara Damron updated the committee on the lottery scholarship. The number of recipients has doubled over time, but this success has contributed to the scholarship fund’s shaky solvency. Currently, 90 percent of tuition is covered, but that’s precarious.

Lottery sales have plateaued at around $40 million for the fund. The liquor excise tax has contributed around $19 million but that transfer will sunset. Without some supplement, the fund could be reduced by 30 percent by FY 18.

Meanwhile, a task force looking at year-round lottery scholarships determined another $5.5 million would be needed to cover summer school. Given uncertain finances, the year-round idea is tabled until a long-term solvency fix can be crafted.