By Aaron Stiles
This year has already been shaky for NMSU, to say the least, and it’s not hard to see why. There are 12.1 million elephants in the room when discussing the University right now, or more appropriately, a lack thereof 12.1 million. Evidently, this is alluding to the budget cuts, which were decided while we were away for the summer, in order to balance our budget as a University.
The cuts, which was approved by NMSU’s Board of Regents and President Garrey Carruthers, outlines $12.1 million worth of slashes, ranging from employee positions to complete shutdowns of some programs including the former Employee Health Center. In a controversial move, it was also announced that the Equestrian Team would have 30 days to find alternative funds for the program, or be eliminated. One week, a massive public outcry, and a GoFundMe page later, the University backtracked and said they would be supporting the team for one more season, but they were on their own after that.
The Round Up recently sat down with ASNMSU President Matthew Bose, essentially to make sense of it all. Bose, who is in his first term in office after being elected in May, explained that the budget at NMSU is divided into two parts: Instruction and General (I & G) money, which funds the School’s Education and Sports departments, and student fees.
The I&G dollars are funded by tuition, which due to the recent decision not to raise the price to attend the University, resulted in the need for cuts to these funds. Student fees, however, put a dent in a budget as they continue to go down, in sync with NMSU’s declining enrollment, coupled with its low retention rates.
“Some departments have a blended budget,” Bose explained. “They get some money from I & G, and some money from Student Fees and they try to make it work.” One such budget is the Activity Center, which evidently lost I&G funding due to the recent cuts.
Bose mentioned that the administration of his predecessor, Dustin Chavez, was able to stay under budget last year, returning a substantial amount to ASNMSU’s reserves. ASNMSU currently has enough funds to carry forward for the near future. However, he explained that when a department has a lot of reserve funding, they tend to get less money in the subsequent years after. Because of this, Bose explains it is a good idea to use some of those funds.
Student fees are allocated by the Student Fee Review Board, which Bose is the chair of, along with Vice President Kevin Prieto having an automatic spot, and Senate being guaranteed a slot as well (usually represented by their Pro Tempore). The last member of the board is an at large student who is usually apart of ASNMSU.
“This year, I wanted to do something differently. I wanted to put out an application process out so that the general student body can apply for this [Student-at-large] position.” Bose explained. This is in an effort to involve the general population of students in their student government process by helping to decide where student fees are allocated.
Additionally, when addressing plans for some of the upcoming state senate sessions, Bose said that one major topic that will be coming up is the issue of the distribution of state lottery scholarship. Bose hopes that ASNMSU will be focusing on lobbying to back load lottery scholarships at the 2017 state legislation. Back loading refers to applying the scholarship to 25% of freshman’s tuition, 50% of sophomore tuition, 75% of junior tuition and 100% of senior tuition. This is in an effort to stretch the remaining funds of the lottery scholarship because it will see a drop from 98% funding to 60% funding in 2017.
“Last year’s Santa Fe legislative session was a 30 day session, the primary focus was on budgetary matters, so there was not an opportunity to discuss back loading the scholarship,” Bose said. The 2017 session will be a 60-day span, which gives ASNMSU the needed time to lobby for this, Bose explained. Back loading will also provide incentive to students to stay in school in order to receive the full lottery scholarship. ASNMSU will also be focusing on bringing in a gap year as well, allowing entering freshman to take a year off from school between high school and college without losing the lottery scholarship. Many believe that student unpreparedness is a main reason for retention, and this would be a way to combat it.
Looking forward into the coming year, Bose says that he would like to have a good working relationship with President Carruthers and the Board of Regents, “If they can see my point of view, and see where students are coming from, it’s only going to benefit students.” The ASNMSU President also alluded to his mentality during potentially difficult times: “When push comes to shove I’m going to stand up for students and what for I believe in, even if that hurts our working relationships.” Aaron Stiles may be reached at TruLegal@NMSU.edu