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Regents: Enrollment Trends Up; Finances Stable

SOCORRO, N.M. November 18, 2009– The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents heard encouraging news about early enrollment for the fall 2010 semester.

At the regular meeting Tuesday in Albuquerque, Regents learned that applications, accepted applications and paid applications are all at record-setting levels for November.

Of the 708 applicants as of November 16, 51 students have paid their application fee. That figure is more than double the 20 paid applicants on November 16, 2008.

While noting that Tech recruiters have had success recruiting in Texas, Regent Richard Carpenter asked what the university is doing to increase recruiting out-of-state and international students.

Admission Office Director Mike Kloeppel said university recruiters attend college fairs across the West, in addition to their intense recruiting schedule in New Mexico. The Admission Office has also participated in on-line college fairs and employed students to help the recruiting effort.

Student Regent Will Villanueva, who served as a recruiter at an Albuquerque college fair, said students serve as excellent recruiters.
University President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said the university has a pending agreement with Yangtze University in China that would see 30 new students in Socorro. Tech officials made a recruiting trip to India a couple years ago, but future overseas recruiting trips have not been scheduled, pending available funding. Tech already has a significant number of graduate students from India, Lopez said, but has not embarked on a recruiting mission to attract Indian undergraduate students, he said.

Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming, vice president of student and university relations, said the Admission and Registrar offices are also focusing on easing the transition for community college transfer students by refining the ever-changing articulation requirements. The main effort is to define the academic regimen that junior college students should complete prior to applying for admission at Tech.

Lopez said transfer students typically fare better at New Mexico Tech than first-year students because they have two years of college experience which prepares them for the rigors of a science and engineering university.

In other news, Lopez briefed the board on expected budget cuts at the state level.

The state legislature cut the “instruction and general” budget by four percent and cut the special projects budget by 6.5 percent. Lopez said the university-initiated budget cuts made at the beginning of the fiscal year should be sufficient to accommodate the state cuts mandated during the October special session.

Lopez said he’s struggling to get legislative staffers to understand that many of Tech’s “special projects” are truly part of the academic arm, like the Petroleum Recovery Research Center, the Bureau of Geology and the Geophysical Research Center.

“They teach just as much as they do research,” Lopez said. “It’s crazy for the state not to recognize that some special projects are closely linked to the research and teaching mission.”

Lopez said he will continue to use his powers of persuasion at state levels to try to preserve funding for the research units that are maintain close ties to academic instruction.

The Bureau did get some good news, however. Lopez said the state Legislative Finance Committee has preliminarily recommended $15 million for a new Bureau of Geology building, while the executive branch recommended $17 million for the same project.

“I’m going to get Peter Scholle a building one way or another,” Lopez said about the Bureau director, sitting across the table. “I think we’ll be able to build that building.”

After the meeting, Scholle said previous state funding allowed the Bureau to hire an architect to design a $20 million building to be constructed on the site of the current Information Services Department.

Dr. John Meason, director of the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center reported that the division is in the black. The Playas Research and Training Center, a cost center within EMRTC, not only is in the black, but has repaid a portion of the university’s original subsidy provided to launch the Playas Center in 2004.

Meason said EMRTC is in solid financial condition, with significant increases over last year and a positive outlook for the remainder of this year.

The research division hired a financial consultant to analyze the cost center’s methodology of cost recovery and will recommend accounting methods for recovering costs.

Meason also reported that EMRTC is finalizing a contract with a private company to conduct testing of unmanned aerial systems at Playas.

“We are working with them to develop contracts for which we will earn fees to support their research area,” he said. “Things are looking good in respect to Playas.”

The research center in Hidalgo County still needs a larger airstrip and Meason said he has enlisted the assistance of the New Mexico Congressional delegation to engage neighboring landowners in negotiations. Playas would need more than 4,000 acres to expand the runway. Meason said he hopes to formalize an agreement within six months.

In other news:

* The Regents approved tenure and full-time professorship in political science for Dr. Lopez in the Humanities Department. Associate Vice President Dr. Scott Zeman said the department unanimously approved the appointment, with full support from the Academic Affairs Division. Each Regent praised Lopez for his leadership, political savvy and foresight.  “It’s amazing how you swim with the sharks year after year with the greatest of ease,” Regent Ann Daily said.

* Construction of a new hot water loop has been delayed by a challenge to the bidding process. On the advice of attorney Mark Adams, Tech withdrew the proposal and issued a new request for bids. Vice President of Finance Lonnie Marquez said he hopes to open bid packages in early December and issue a contract. The hot water loop construction is a separate project from – albeit eventually connected to – the geothermal project currently underway at the base of ‘M’ Mountain.

* Marquez presented the October financial analysis. He said revenues are ahead of last year and expenditures are below budget. “That tells me that everyone is taking the budget cuts seriously,” Marquez said.

* The Regents also approved the quarterly financial report.

* Marquez, who also serves as chairman of the Emergency Response Team, reported that the campus clinic has not seen a dramatic increase in swine flu cases in November. During the previous week, about 20 students reported flu-like symptoms, with several of them isolated their dorms.

* The Regents learned about three restricted fund purchases over $100,000.

  • Rodgers and Company won a competitive bid to drill a geothermal well for $352,306.
  • The Magdalena Ridge Observatory selected the sole bidder, M3 Engineering and Technology, to design and build foundations for the interferometer telescopes. The contract was for $992,493.
  • The Observatory also hired URS Corp. to engineer improvements to Forest Road 235. The project will include a new automated gate, a heavy equipment facility and reconstruction of access roads. URS Corp. was the low bidder among three companies.

* The Regents expedited a degree conferral for Karen Hovsepian, who earned a doctorate in computer science.

* The Regents appointed Joe Franklin, the director of Information Services Department, as Tech’s representative to the National Lambda Rail University Research Park and Economic Development Act Corporation. The organization plans to increase bandwidth between research universities to improve information sharing capabilities.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech