SOCORRO, N.M. January 6, 2012– Governor Susana Martinez officially unveiled the new higher education funding formula at a press conference at New Mexico Tech on Wednesday.

Gov. Susana Martinez  conducts an interview with an Albuquerque TV reporter on Wednesday at New Mexico Tech.

Gov. Martinez and Dr. Daniel H. Lopez, Tech president, after the governor officially announced the new higher education funding formula at New Mexico Tech.
Photos by Thomas Guengerich

The event coincided with a half-day workshop for university board members from the seven four-year colleges, hosted by the N.M. Higher Education Department and its secretary Dr. Jose Garcia.

At the end of the workshop, Gov. Martinez gave a short presentation outlining the rationale for the new funding formula, which she said she appreciates. She also encouraged the state’s universities to work cooperatively to promote success and achievement benchmarks among the state’s college students.

Gov. Martinez and Garcia both touted the simplicity of the new funding formula – the new system will require seven spreadsheets, while the old formula required 125.

The old formula was largely based on student headcount on the 21st day of each semester and the square-footage of campus buildings. Martinez pushed the universities to agree upon a formula that is based on course completion, degrees awarded and technical degrees (defined as science, math, engineering, health care and technology).

In her presentation, Martinez said the state’s funding formula should provide incentives to hitting benchmark goals – goals that will help the state develop a stronger workforce and be globally competitive. She said the state’s highest priority should be to provide a quality education to students so that they can launch careers in high-tech fields.

Garcia said, for the first time in New Mexico history, the older generation is more educated than the younger generations. He said the new formula should help provide incentives to universities to close that gap.

Dr. Daniel H. Lopez, president of New Mexico Tech, said the new formula is an improvement and that Tech will benefit somewhat because of the extra weight given to science and engineering degree programs. However, because of Tech’s small student body, the benefits will be small, he said.

In interviews with Albuquerque media members after her presentation, Martinez said the current system makes no sense. She said that to determine funding based on the number of students enrolled at an arbitrary time during the semester (the 21st day) does not offer proper incentives to universities to fully educate New Mexico students.

Lopez said the old formula was effective at encouraging high school graduates to pursue a college career and it served its purpose.

“What the old formula did not do was improve the number of graduates or help close the achievement gap,” he said. “The new formula has a chance to have an impact and have more students completing courses and improving graduation rates.”

The formula has not been completely finalized and Lopez said he’d like to see the state continue to tinker with funding issues over the next two or three years.

“In general, I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

Lopez, who chairs the Council of University Presidents, said the formula should have an additional element that differentiates between missions of state schools – research universities, comprehensive universities and two-year colleges.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech