Regents Discussed Legislation Pertaining to Higher Education, Approved Audit Report

The Western New Mexico University Board of Regents met Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. Pictured from left to right are Jerry A. Walz, Arlean Murillo, Dr. Carl Foster, Janice Baca-Argabright, and Dr. Dan Salzwedel.

© Western New Mexico University

The Western New Mexico University Board of Regents heard from a number of state leaders and unanimously approved Western New Mexico University’s Fiscal Year 2017 audit report during their meeting at the New Mexico capitol on Jan. 25, 2018.

Chair Jerry A. Walz, Vice Chair Janice Baca-Argabright, Student Regent and Secretary/Treasurer Arlean Murillo and Regent Dr. Dan Salzwedel were in attendance. Dr. Carl Foster was unable to attend.

As the board meeting took place while the New Mexico Legislature was in session, regents discussed higher education policy proposals with special guests such as Executive Director of the New Mexico Independent Community Colleges Clayton Abbey, Rep. Rebecca Dow, Sen. Howie Morales and Rep. Candie Sweetser, who is an adjunct professor for Western New Mexico University’s Deming branch.

New Mexico Lt. Gov. John Sanchez commended Western New Mexico University for its “far reach into the fabric of the state” and expressed his support for Western New Mexico University’s proposed capital outlay projects, namely construction projects on some of the university’s historic buildings. “I see the remodeling of existing facilities as an investment,” he said.

Executive Director of the Council of University Presidents Marc Saavedra said that New Mexico higher education institutions are more efficient than ever. “We’re operating at close to the same enrollment as ten years ago but with $50 million less in our budget,” he said.

Saavedra also pointed out that due to the state’s performance-based higher education funding distribution formula, Western New Mexico University receives the highest distribution in New Mexico. “You’ve grown. You’re succeeding,” he said.

Legislative Finance Committee Director David Abbey urged regents to use care when spending this year’s “windfall” from New Mexico’s recent surge in oil and gas production. “It ends up looking like nonrecurring funds,” he said.

Salzwedel acknowledged the need to exercise care. “We know very well that extractive industries will peak and valley. Wisdom should guide us to seek additional revenue streams and watch our pocketbook as well,” he said.

Vice President for Business Affairs Kelley Riddle presented Western New Mexico University’s Fiscal Year 2017 audit report, pointing out seven findings – all of which have been resolved. “We’ve put processes in place so we don’t have them again next year,” she said.

Before closing the meeting, the board heard from Associated Students of Western New Mexico University President Timothy Stillman, Staff Senate President Dean Foster, Faculty Senate President Dr. Andrew Hernandez and Western New Mexico University President Dr. Joseph Shepard.

In his report, President Shepard said Western New Mexico University saw a 33 percent increase in first-time freshmen applicants in the fall 2017 semester. “In the fall, students are applying to their schools of choice. That means we’re a school of choice.”

The next Western New Mexico University Board of Regents meeting will be in Silver City in March.

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