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Regents: Enrollment and Tuition Increasing

SOCORRO, N.M. April 1, 2010 – New Mexico Tech is still on pace to see a record-setting freshman class in the fall 2010 semester.
As of March 23, Tech has received 247 paid applications (out of 1,205 total applicants), compared with 161 paid applicants at the same time in 2009.

“We have incredible growth and the pattern continues,” university president Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said. “Normally, that’s great, but we have 11 frozen [faculty] positions and three more who are retiring. It’s beginning to put a strain on faculty to offer the classes to accommodate the students.”

The incoming students – and continuing students – are going to pay a bit more for tuition beginning next fall. Lopez said the state’s funding formula assumes that each university will increase tuition by at least 5 percent. Tech tuition increase will probably be 8 or 9 percent, Lopez said.

Regent Richard Carpenter talked about several issues related to enrollment. First, he said that the university can expect to see increased enrollment for the next couple years, particularly if the national economy stays in the doldrums.

He pointed out that the University of New Mexico is considering tightening admission standards and asked if New Mexico Tech should consider changing its admission standards. Finally, Carpenter said Tech could improve its retention rates by examining admissions.

Lopez said he is willing to launch an effort to study Tech’s admission standards; however, he said incoming Tech students already has a relatively high average GPA, which is the best indicator of persistence. He also said that retention issues are typically related to individual behavior – like going to class and completing assignments.

Lopez presented a draft of his annual goals for 2010-2011, which include improving freshman retention from 72 percent to 78 percent.

His other five goals include managing budget cuts, procuring state funding for the geothermal project, securing about $10 million for construction of a new Bureau of Geology building, securing $1 million for upgrading the heating and cooling system in Macey Center and, for the first time, beginning the planning process for building a new dormitory.

Especially if undergraduate enrollment continues to increase, Tech will experience a housing crunch, he said.

“We’re thinking about this two to three years out,” Lopez said. “Since we are debt free, we are looking at our bonding capacity.”
Vice President of Finance Lonnie Marquez told the Regents that the Employee Benefit Trust revenues are $5.2 million, which leaves a net revenue positive balance between revenues and expenditures.

Lopez also announced to the Regents that the university was awarded the inaugural Unsung Heroes Award at the Global New Energy Summit in mid-March.

Tech was recognized for making significant contributions in areas of energy innovation and energy policy. Regent Ann Murphy Daily said the event gave Tech invaluable exposure to energy industry decision-makers.

“My colleagues were amazed to learn about what’s going on at Tech,” she said. “This is very exciting.”

The conference organizers gave Tech a miniature replica of the official trophy; however, Murphy Daily convinced the summit leaders to allow Tech to keep the official trophy until next year’s conference.

In other research news, Brent McCune of Western Refining made an initial overture to the university to propose an industrial research partnership regarding development of algae-based biofuels.

The company, which owns both refineries and retail stores, aims to increase its use of biofuels, specifically algae-based fuels, McCune said. The company is looking for research partners to help improve the understanding of algae strains, algae refining and new technologies.

The company is already blending algal fuels with traditional petroleum at its El Paso refinery. McCune said the company’s goals are to start an algae farm near its Gallup, N.M., refinery and produce more than 20 million gallons of algae biofuel each year.

Lopez said he’d propose forming a team – perhaps including other research universities – to explore a partnership on biofuels technology and development.

Murphy Daily said, “New Mexico Tech is known for climbing mountains that no one has climbed. The Board encourages a consortium to investigate this opportunity.”

In academic news, math professor Dr. Bill Stone presented the board with a request from the faculty to launch a non-profit organization to publish text books. Stone said many professors have written their own texts that are currently used in classrooms.

Stone said the New Mexico Tech publishing group will start with the texts already written and expand operations as the organization grows. The main objective is to save students money, Stone said. The president has given his blessing for the faculty group to use the Tech name and logo.

In other faculty news, the Regents approved more than a dozen promotions and transitions. Five professors were promoted to associate professor and granted tenure:

  • Dr. Glenn Spinelli, Earth and Environmental Science;
  • Dr. Bixiang Wang, Mathematics;
  • Dr. Michael Pullin, Chemistry;
  • Dr. Dongwan Shin, Computer Science and Engineering; and
  • Dr. Hector Erives, Electrical Engineering.

One professor who came to Tech as an associate was granted tenure was Dr. Gary Axen, Earth and Environmental Science

Five professors were promoted to full professor:

  • Dr. Tom Engler, Petroleum Engineering;
  • Dr. Navid Mojtabai, Mineral Engineering;
  • Dr. Michael Heagy, Chemistry;
  • Dr. Doug Dunston, CLASS; and
  • Dr. David Burleigh, Materials Engineering.

Two Bureau of Geology scientists were granted emeritus status:

Dr. Marshall Reiter, principal senior geophysicist and
Dr. Richard Chamberlin, senior field geologist

Three academic departments have new (or continuing) chairs:

  • Dr. Ken Eack is the new Physics Department chair, taking over for Dr. Dave Westpfahl;
  • Dr. Kevin Wedeward is the new Electrical Engineering chair, taking over for Dr. Scott Teare; and
  • Dr. Anwar Hossain will continue as the chair of the Mathematics Department.

The Regents also approved sabbatical leave for Pullin.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Peter Gerity praised each of the professors for stellar work, giving the Regents a brief summary of each person’s research focus, teaching history and service projects.

In more academic news, the Regents approved a new policy vesting the President with the authority to confer degrees on behalf of the Regents. The Registrar will provide the President with a list every month of those students who have completed degree requirements and been approved for graduation by the Faculty Council. The new policy was enacted in response to concerns from graduates who have been unable to start job assignments without a diploma.

In other news:

The Regents approved of a property purchase and learned of three restricted fund purchases.

The university bought the former Western Bank building in Playas for $43,000. The building was appraised at $62,000. The Playas Training and Research Center will use the 1,500 square-foot building for offices and conference rooms.

The three restricted fund purchases:

  • Tech issued contract is $114,889 to Princeton University for an analytical-numerical sharp interface model of carbon dioxide sequestration in the Illinois Basin.
  • EMRTC issued a contract to the Penro Group for $185,000 to fund an expert in physical security in support of a project at White Sands Missile Range.
  • EMRTC issued a subcontract to SAIC for $182,074 for a joint multiple effect warhead demonstration.

Marquez presented the financial analysis, which shows that the university is on budget and that expenditures and revenues are running within budget guidelines.

Marquez also presented the preliminary 2010-2011 budget. The budget for Instruction and General is $38.6 million, a 5.5 percent decrease from the previous year.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech