The Western New Mexico University Board of Regents unanimously agreed to raise tuition and also approved the fiscal year 2020-21 student fees during a meeting held over Zoom on Tuesday. The members also approved the final Budget Adjustment Request and the 2019-20 Quarter 3 Financial Actions Report, tabling a vote on the fiscal year 2020-21 budget until the next meeting, which they scheduled for Wednesday, May 13.
In his report, WNMU President Dr. Joseph Shepard discussed oil prices’ influence on the state and university budget, which he recommended the board delay determining until the mid-May deadline. Projecting about a 20% decrease, he said this summer’s state legislative special session would determine what cuts WNMU should actually expect. “We’re in for a very, very difficult time. Higher education is 12.8% of the state budget. We can expect substantial cuts no matter what happens.”
The president reported that while summer session applications are tracking about the same as last year, enrollment is lagging. “Fall enrollment is going to be rather significant too. While normally recessions mean an increase in enrollment, I’m not going to bank on that. I can’t afford to,” he said.
Regarding layoffs and furloughs at WNMU, Dr. Shepard said, “We are now moving into that territory. Eighty percent of our budget is made up of personnel costs.”
When presenting the proposed fiscal year 2020-21 student fees, Associated Students of WNMU President Darlene Chavez said the student fee cost per credit hour would be increased by 76 cents. The board accepted the fees with one amendment to the proposal.
Dr. Mary Hotvedt made the motion, saying, “Let’s pass the change to student fees, understanding we’ll suspend collection of the Student Life fee for the summer and instead collect the Athletic fee.”
The board spent much time discussing the proposed 2020-2021 tuition rates, which increase the resident undergraduate overall cost of tuition and fees by $11.18 per credit hour, the nonresident undergraduate cost by $28.84 per credit hour, the resident graduate cost by $11.95 per credit hour, and the nonresident graduate cost by $30.96 per credit hour.
The 4.25% increase to the in-state undergraduate tuition and fees was planned in response to the anticipated implementation of the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship, said Dr. Hotvedt, whose motion to accept the tuition rates as proposed was unanimously passed. “This was done with the idea that students would get more support for their programs from the state.”
The members of the board agreed they may need to revisit the tuition rate once they have a better picture of the state’s overall budget. “Nobody wants to raise tuition. I get that,” Dr. Shepard said. “When you’re dealing with a 20% decrease in your budget, typically that’s what it means.”