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Regents Hear About 2013 Legislative Successes

SOCORRO, N.M. April 12, 2013 – The 2013 legislative session, according to President Daniel H. Lopez’ report, included several highlights worthy of mention regarding New Mexico Tech, including a successful last-minute lobbying effort by two Tech students to provide full funding for the struggling Legislative Lottery Scholarship for one more year.

Sohaib Soliman and Colin Newton worked feverishly for two weeks to broker a deal that would provide $10 million for the Lottery Scholarship fund, averting a potential 35 percent across the board cut.

Several other students from Tech and from other universities contributed to the lobbying effort. In the waning days of the session, Soliman and Newton alone orchestrated a deal that most seasoned Roundhouse watchers never thought possible.

In her session-closing press conference, Gov. Susana Martinez praised Soliman and Newton and pledged her support for finding a permanent fix for the Lottery Scholarship program that has been losing money for years.

Tech Regents Jerry Armijo and Richard N. Carpenter praised the students for their accomplishment and hard work. Tech President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said the students did something no one thought they could do.

Lopez reported to the Board on other outcomes of the 60-day session.

“It was a fairly interesting session for a variety of reasons,” Lopez said. “There was an extraordinary amount of legislation that we had to deal with.”

The state approved an across-the-board 1 percent salary increase for all employees. Lopez said he will propose to create another salary increase, most likely from the new salary appropriation and a tuition increase. He presented three scenarios to the board that showed how much money could be devoted to salaries, based on tuition increases of 3, 4 and 5 percent. He will present tuition increase proposals to the Student Government Association later in April.

Tech was successful in securing a marginal increase for “Instruction & General” – an increase that will go toward faculty, Lopez said.

“Our faculty is way underpaid,” he said. “Look at a comparison to other New Mexico universities and we fare poorly. Look at our national peer institutions and it’s worse.”

Lopez said the increase in the general fund could fund up to two new faculty positions. He said he’ll work with the Office of Academic Affairs and the faculty to decide how to allocate the increase between new hires and increasing salaries.

Lopez said he continues to work on fine-tuning the state’s funding formula. He said the latest proposed formula would penalize schools for students who drop or flunk classes. The formula also does not weight courses or degree programs by eventual wage potential, another variable he hopes to see added to the formula.

“The only answer is to have at least two formulas – one for two-year schools and one for four-year schools,” Lopez said. “That’s been my cry for five years.”

New Mexico Tech also successfully secured $6 million to complete the funding package for construction of a new Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources Building; $100,000 to add parking; $235,000 for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory; and $100,000 for the Geophysical Research Center.

Dr. Van Romero, Vice President of Research, reported that he is working with the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University to establish a cooperative agreement to join a bid to run the Sandia National Laboratories. The New Mexico universities would not submit a bid as a group, but join a consortium that is bidding to run the laboratories.

“If you recall the Los Alamos bid, we created the New Mexico Consortium to create a mechanism for national laboratories to deal with New Mexico universities,” Romero said. “We’ve committed to working together as a cohesive unit.”

In other board business:

  • The Board approved $1.54 million to renovate the President’s Hall dormitory. The project will include replacing the utilities and the roof and bringing the building up to code.
  • The Board elected Carpenter as the president and Armijo as the secretary/treasurer for two-year terms.
  • Vice President of Student and University Relations Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming reported that fall enrollment is on pace to beat last year’s freshman enrollment, which was a record class.
  • Lopez announced that he and Romero are leading a small contingent of Tech leaders who are visiting Dubai in April to continue discussions about pending collaborations. The United Arab Emirates has asked Tech to provide engineering support for a disaster response training course. Also, a university in Dubai is interested in having Tech offer courses in Engineering Management via distance education.
  • The Board approved annual subscriptions to Elsevier for $285,073 and to EBSCO for $499,722. Librarian Lisa Beinhoff said she has cut 74 journal subscription list to cut costs.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech