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Regents Report: Enrollment Rising, Budget Falling

SOCORRO, N.M. February 25, 2014– The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents heard about enrollment increases, legislative updates, the discontinuation of the Alternative Licensure Program due to funding constraints, the annual audit and other news at the regular meeting Friday, Feb. 14, in Santa Fe.

Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming, Vice President of Student and University Relations, reported that enrollment for the fall 2014 semester is 25 students ahead of last year. The Admission Office also hosted a visitation day for prospective students on Monday, Feb. 17, with more than 130 students on campus.

Director of Special Projects Miguel Hidalgo said construction of the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources building is at least two weeks ahead of schedule and under budget. He said the mild weather has allowed the contractor to make rapid headway.

He said half of the first floor concrete has been poured; steel columns and beams will be installed over the next few weeks. University President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said he has asked Hidalgo to be vigilant and insist on soil stabilization for the new 85,000 square-foot building.

Lopez also updated the Regents about the current legislative session, which is scheduled to end on Thursday, Feb. 20. He said the legislature has accomplished nothing and he does not expect the state to finalize a budget until the deadline.

“It looks pretty dire,” Lopez said. “They could land up not having the budget done by the end of the session, which would lead to a special session.”

Lopez said Tech could see a budget reduction, which would preclude hiring new people on staff and faculty. He said the shortfall in the Lottery Scholarship Program also has not been solved. He said students may end up owing tuition money for the portion of their Lottery Scholarships that may not be funded by the State. Jaramillo-Fleming said more than 600 Tech students rely on the state-funded Lottery Scholarship.

“I hate to paint such a dark picture, but it’s a tough road,” Lopez said.

In other business:

Colleen Guengerich, Director of Advancement, updated the Regents about fundraising efforts. She said Tech received donations of about $1.3 million during 2013, well above the previous year, with $637,000 given to the New Mexico Tech Research Park Foundation. The Office of Advancement is setting up a new website to facilitate giving.

She said her office held a special luncheon for potential donors to the Bureau of Geology immediately after the ground-breaking ceremony in January. She is also meeting with oil and gas producers in southeast New Mexico to establish better relations, encourage donations and cooperate on student projects.

Dr. Peter Anselmo, professor of management, told the Regents about the creation of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, which already is funding three projects for nine undergraduate students. He said the new Center will be funded by donation from Tech graduate Dr. Raul Deju and other donors. Anselmo invited the Regents to a kick-off celebration later in February in Socorro.

Faculty members Dr. Snezna Rogelj of the Biology Department and Dr. Bhaskar Majumdar of the Materials Engineering Department are each leading a team of students working to commercialize and market – and perhaps patent – a new project.

Deju and other donors have pledged $200,000 over five years for the Center. Anselmo said he has a “handshake agreement” with the national laboratories to send students to business workshops.

Dr. Richard Sonnenfeld, physics professor, read a resolution from the Faculty Senate that condemned the removal of the Alternative Licensure Program, which allows Tech students to earn a bachelor’s and become licensed secondary teachers. He said the program is valuable and its closure was done by the Office of Academic Affairs without consultation with faculty members.

“We do produce the best teachers of math and science for high schools,” Sonnenfeld said. “Further, our program is opportunistic. Our students don’t come to Tech to become teachers, but some find a calling.”

Regents Jerry Armijo and Richard Carpenter expressed support for the program. Sonnenfeld mentioned that the enrollment has fallen dramatically over the past year and, later in the meeting, Lopez said the budget might preclude revamping the program, which costs a minimum of $60,000 per year.

Dr. John Meason, Director of the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, or EMRTC, told the Regents about an upcoming series of tests for the State Department. EMRTC technicians will be testing blast wall technology to see how well the new wall structures withstand close proximity blasts.

Lonnie Marquez, Vice President of Finance, presented the annual audit report and introduced representatives of the auditing firm. The auditors said they have no significant findings to present and praised the efforts of the Finance Office team for improving processes from the previous audit.

The Board approved the quarterly financial report and the monthly financial report.

The board learned that Tech conferred 36 bachelor’s degrees in January, along with 15 master’s and two Ph.D.’s.

Dr. Mary Dezember, Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs, spoke about the university’s efforts to formalize it’s policy on how policies are created. She said her team is working to organize and publish online a compendium of all university policies. The efforts is intended to align with the ongoing re-accreditation process.

The Board approved three resolutions to remove surplus property from university inventory.

The Board approved an Open Meetings Act resolution, which it does annually.

Marquez reported on the Employee Benefit Trust, which administers the university’s health benefit program. He said December was “a disastrous month,” with Tech providing $800,000 to the Trust to cover the shortfall.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech