By: Albert Luna
The New Mexico State Board of Regents met on Monday, April 3, in what was supposed to be a meeting centered mainly on a tuition increase, but the action item was ultimately tabled instead.
The Board, which had not met in an open action meeting since March 6, was originally scheduled to vote on four different action items, each having to do with a request for new rates.
However, before the Agenda for the meeting could be approved, which would have put the tuition vote on the action-required-platform, Regent Kari Mitchell requested to push back any voting.
“We received a request from the administration late Friday, which was to table [The Tuition Increase Proposition]” Mitchell said, “The reason for that is that there is a great deal of uncertainty in terms of what is going to happen with the state budget.”
This development comes off the heels of an apparent standoff between Governor Susana Martinez and the State Legislature after they approved a budget that would bring cuts to state supported schools like NMSU, which the Governor has said she would not sign. The Senate could use a special session to get the budget through this week in the likely case of a pocket veto by the Governor.
The cuts from the State for NMSU are expected to be anywhere from 1.1 percent to 5.7 percent in reduction of appropriations overall for the University.
“There’s rumored new discussions regarding tuition credit and I think it’s prudent of us to wait until the state brings more certainty to our budgetary situation” Mitchell said.
The change in tuition, when voted on, can range from no change at all, to as high as roughly $200 more per semester for a full-time student at the University.
With the tuition change tabled for at least roughly one month, the Board voted on three other action items, all of which were approved which included raising the price for on-campus housing rates from next school year through 2021, raising on-campus meal plan rates for at least next school year and keeping the same parking rates for on-campus parking for at least next school year.
Senior Vice President Angela Thorneberry and Associate Vice President D’Anne Stuart presented a proposal for all of the action items. Stuart initially talked about the new projects that have been in development from a housing standpoint. Among other financial goals that office of Administration and Finance has set, there are also plans underway for a new residence hall on the site of the old Monagle hall that was demolished in late 2016.
“The residential hall facility will be the Monagle Hall replacement and be built on that site” Stuart said.
The new facility, which is expected to be ready by the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, will have an estimated 300 beds and, as Stuart said, it will focus more on interior amenities in order to attract a new market of students to on-campus living.
The new hall, which will cost roughly $21.5 million, will be solely funded from the net proceeds of the 2017 Bonds.
In addition, Stuart said that there will also be facility renovations, which aside from basic maintenance improvement projects, also includes facility renovations to Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel, Pinon and Garcia Halls, along with Chamisa and Vista Del Monte Villages.
“We have $11 million going to facility renovations” Stuart said, “Those key facilities [3 Residential halls and 2 Apartments] that we’ve identified need to remain online [in use].”
In order to keep up with current market movements among college campus living nationwide, the department ultimately proposed to set housing rates at an increasing rate per year through the end of the 2021 school year.
The housing rate request would affect all campus housing. The proposition would increase housing rates the primarily the most next school year, with a Pinon Double Suit (4.8 percent) and a Chamisa 2-bedroom apartment (3.4 percent) seeing some of the notable jumps.
By the end of the 2021 school year, most housing rates will have risen from anywhere between 5 and 8 percent, meaning around a $750 increase per year by the 2021 school year for most housing.
“Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel, even with our increase, is below our peer’s [similar sized Universities] average low [price] for double suites, which is our most common type of facility” Stewart said.
In regards to the meal plan increase, the Board approved a plan that would increase all prices by 2.9 percent for only the 2017-18 school year. The Aggie Choice 230 plan, which is one of more popular plans on campus, would be raised from $1,796 to $1,848 per semester, a $104 increase over the course of a school year, excluding the summer.
The Board also voted on a proposition that would not increase parking permit costs for next school year as well, but acknowledged an increase would have to be looked at in the near future.
If and when a state budget is passed, Board Chair Debra Hicks said she will call a special meeting to discuss tuition for next year. However, if a budget does not get approved relatively soon (at the latest by the start of the fiscal year on July 1), the state would go into a furlough, which Chancellor Garrey Carruthers says would be catastrophic.
“We have I think a 90-day reserve [after July 1] that could hold us over, but the Governor and the Legislature have to get together and give us something to work with” Carruthers said, “We have to have a resolution to the budget [from the state] by July 1 or we cannot operate this University.”