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Early Enrollment Spike Is Good and Bad News

SANTA FE, N.M. March 4, 2010 – The Board of Regents heard good news and bad news at the February meeting on Friday, Feb. 26,  in Santa Fe.

The good news: early enrollment for the fall 2010 semester is on pace to be the largest freshman class in university history. The bad news: early enrollment for the fall 2010 semester is on pace to be the largest freshman class in university history.

“Paid applications are nearly double the same time last year,” President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said. “Kudos to Melissa Jaramillo Fleming and her crew, but I worry about next year. It’ll be a challenge to accommodate these new students without adding faculty.”

As of mid-February, Tech already has 205 paid applicants, compared with 108 at the same time in 2009. Jaramillo-Fleming, the Vice President of Student and University Relations, said the Admission Office staff has implemented new programs and targeted quality students.

“All that work is paying off,” she said. “It’s been a good year.”

In addition to traditional recruiting events, Tech has taken part in on-line college fairs and used more guerilla marketing techniques – like Facebook and targeted emails. The university has also targeted geographical areas and formed partnerships with junior colleges.

Regent Ann Murphy Daily asked Dr. Lopez how the university will handle what could be a large influx of new students, given that Tech has instituted a hiring freeze. Lopez said the university may rely on adjunct professors and increase the size of some lower level classes. Tech will not benefit from increased state revenue based on student enrollment until the next funding cycle.

“I’ll have a better answer when we have a budget,” he said. “In any case, we’re going to handle it.”

Those incoming students will pay more as freshman than this year’s freshman class. The state is recommending tuition increases of 5 percent at public universities. Students who receive the Lottery Scholarship won’t feel the pinch, but Lopez said the state’s fund for those awards is becoming depleted.

The Board of Regents approved the list of December 2009 graduates and took a significant step for some future graduates. Board members agreed to vest President Lopez with the authority to award degrees – with prior Faculty Senate approval, but without requiring further action from the Board.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Peter Gerity said many graduates are finding that employers will not permit them to begin work until they have a diploma in hand. Some graduating students are losing wages while they wait for the university to confer degrees.

Regent Richard Carpenter said Gerity’s request was reasonable and that Regents don’t have the technical background to approve graduates. He suggested that the Board annually authorize the President to approve graduates, pending Faculty Senate approval.

Gerity suggested that the university confer degrees once a month and report graduation lists to the Regents. That item is likely to be on the next meeting’s agenda.

In financial news, the state legislature cut the budget for higher education by 3.5 percent, as expected, and cut the special projects budget by 5 percent, which was also expected.

Dr. Lopez said Tech will not have to trim its budget again unless the state institutes another round of budget cuts later in the year. Tech had already trimmed its budget last fall in anticipation of state-mandated budget cuts.

In other financial news, auditor Larry Carmody presented his findings to the board. He said the found no significant deficiencies in Tech’s accounting systems.

Vice President of Finance Lonnie Marquez presented the quarterly fiscal report, which shows that Tech is operating within the budget for the year.

Marquez also reported that the Employee Benefit Trust, which funds the health insurance plan, has spent $300,000 more than its revenues for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. He said the plan is projected to spend $8.4 million for the year, which is about $400,000 more than projected revenues.

He said he is meeting with insurance provider, HCH Administration in mid-March to discuss options.

In other action, the Regents:

* Approved sabbatical leave for three professors. Math professor Dr. Brian Borchers will spend a semester at the Pure and Theoretical Math Institute at UCLA. Mineral engineering professor Dr. Ali Fakhimi will spend a semester transitioning into a series of classes in rock mechanics. Hydrology professor Dr. Jan Hendricks will spend a semester at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

* Approved a department name change. The Humanities Department is now the CLASS Department, which is an acronym for Communication, Liberal Arts, Social Sciences.

* Approved the Faculty Senate’s recommendation to confer an honorary doctorate to Stan Bryn of Socorro. Bryn is the co-owner and operator of Intor, a local company that manufactures optics. Gerity said Bryn is a self-educated engineer with experience worthy of a doctorate. Dr. Scott Teare, professor of electrical engineering and an expert in optics, wrote a letter of recommendation, as did Dr. Frank Reinow, management professor who has worked with Bryn and Intor.

* Approved disposal of assets. The Biology Department sold $21,581 of equipment to the University of New Mexico. The Information Services Department, or ISD, donated equipment to New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs.

* Heard about three restricted fund purchases that exceed $100,000. The Energetic Materials Research Testing Center renewed a contract with SAIC for the first responder training program. The contract is for $7,448,167. The Earth and Environmental Science Department purchased an X-Ray Diffractometer Console for $220,000 from PANalytical. The Mechanical Engineering Department purchased a stereo particle image velocimetry system from TSI Inc. for $287,006.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech