Many N.M. universities to suffer funding drop

By Marlena Hartz : Freedom Newspapers

Clovis Community College is in jeopardy of losing a portion of its state-appropriated funds, along with most of New Mexico public universities and colleges, according to officials. The major culprit in the state-wide slip — a thriving economy, according to officials.

Historically, when employment rates are healthiest, enrollment at colleges and universities is lowest, officials said.

“When the economy is good, enrollment drops off. That is what we are seeing, and we are glad that is the way it is,” Eastern New Mexico University President Steven Gamble said.

Of course, that also means, “It is a very bad time for schools to try to experience growth,” Gamble said.

State funding is appropriated to institutions of higher education based on enrollment figures — specifically the number of semester credit hours logged at an institution. A 5 percent decline in enrollment corresponds to a loss in funding, according to education officials.

“When you lose students, you certainly lose some money that comes from the state,” said Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.

CCC enrollment dropped almost 10 percent in fiscal year 2005-2006 from fiscal year 2004-2005, according to CCC officials. Enrollment at Eastern declined roughly 3 percent, sparing the college from a potential funding chop, according to Gamble.

With the exception of Eastern, all of New Mexico’s 12 universities have experienced a decline in enrollment in the past fiscal year, according to Ingle. In total, there are 26 public two- and four-year colleges in the state, according officials with the New Mexico Higher Education Department.

The amount of state funding pulled from a public college or university because of an enrollment decline hinges on the degree of the decline and the amount of funding the college had been receiving, according to Gamble.

Since state funding for this year has already been appropriated, the latest enrollment drops would affect 2007-2008 college and university budgets.

So for now, CCC officials are waiting to gauge how, and if, they will be affected.

“Everything is really speculation (right now). We don’t want to jump the gun,” CCC Director of Marketing and Community Relations Lisa Spencer said.

“If there is a decline in funding, there will be no impact until July 2007. At that time, we expect to have a better understanding of next year’s budget,” she said.

Budgetary issues will be addressed in the next legislative session, scheduled for January 2007. Legislators can make slight changes in how funding is appropriated, and there is a possibility they might in 2007, Ingle said.

In the meantime, CCC officials will continue to focus on marketing and recruiting efforts, Spencer said.