Regents: University ‘Getting Creative’ To Handle Freshman Class

SOCORRO, N.M. August 16, 2010 – New Mexico Tech will have a record size incoming class this fall, with more than 410 new students enrolled. The previous largest class was 365 in 2008. Last year, Tech had 322 new students.

The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents heard an update on enrollment and on-campus housing at the Thursday, Aug. 5, meeting, which was part of the board’s annual retreat. The Board originally had planned to hold its retreat in Chama; however, earlier this year the Board decided to move the annual three-day meeting to Socorro to save costs in consideration of the cost-cutting measures that all employees have had to contend with.

Melissa Jaramillo Fleming, Vice President of Student and University Relations, said the Residential Life office has had to get creative to find rooms for all the students who want dorm rooms.

Residential Assistants will have roommates this year; and some lounges have been converted to dorm rooms. As a last resort, the university is considering lodging students in local hotels until dorm spaces open up, she said.

Lonnie Marquez, Vice President of Finance, reported later in the meeting that Tech is in the early stages of planning for a new dormitory. He said the university would need to take on about $12 million of debt to build a new facility.

Regent Richard Carpenter asked if university leaders have considered contracting with a private company to build, maintain and operate a residential facility.

University president Dr. Dan Lopez said Tech has examined that possibility and, so far, determined that a turnkey operation would not benefit the school.

“I have resisted that, but we can continue to look at it,” he said. “We count on the revenues [from housing fees] to continuously upgrade facilities and services for the students who live on campus.”

Dr. Lopez also discussed the bond issue for a new Bureau of Geology building. As part of the statewide General Obligation bond, or G.O. Bond, Tech would receive $12.5 million for construction, if the initiative is approved by voters. The G.O. Bond – which includes funding options for several universities in the state – will be on the ballot during the November general election.

Regarding health insurance costs, Marquez reported that the Employee Benefit Trust, which administers the group health insurance coverage, had revenues of $7.7 million for 2009-2010 and expenditures of $8.3 million.

Marquez said the university will be forced to increase employee contributions in 2011. Dr. Lopez said that he is reluctant to increase the cost of insurance to employees.

“In an environment where we’ve had no raises and we have had to force a lot of economy within our budget, I need to voice my concern,” he said. “Some employees are here because we have a generous package. Even though our salaries – especially for faculty and researchers – are lower than other universities, people appreciate our benefits package.”

In other agenda items:

  • Marquez reported that the contractors are making significant progress on the hot water loop construction project.
  • The Regents learned that computer science professor Dr. Subhasish Mazumdar was approved for a sabbatical leave.
  • The Regents approved a new agreement between the university and the New Mexico Tech Foundation.
  • Dr. Lopez invited the Regents to participate in the annual President’s Golf Tournament, which is September 16 and 17. The university’s largest scholarship fund-raising event generates more than $170,000 each year.
  • The Board set its meeting schedule for the next year. Most meetings will be on the third Tuesday of the month in Socorro. October’s meeting will be in Playas on Thursday, Oct. 21. November’s meeting will be in Albuquerque. The February meeting is in Santa Fe.
  • Marquez presented the monthly financial report, which included not-yet-audited year-end statements.
  • The Board approved the university’s “wish list’ for Research and Public Service Projects for 2011-2012, which is required by the state. In order of priority, New Mexico Tech is seeking funding for these projects: (1) Bureau of Geology, $4.1 million; (2) Aquifer Mapping, $264,000; (3) National Cave and Karst Research Institute, $514,000; (4) Center for Energy Policy, $186,000; (5) Magdalena Ridge Observatory, $250,000; and (6) MESA, $1.38 million.
– NMT –
By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech