Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tech Pledges Academic Quality in Wake of Budget Constraints

by John Larson

New Mexico Tech’s budget concerns might lead to more financial restrictions, but university President Dan Lopez says that the school’s academic programs will maintain high standards.
The university has between 12 and 15 faculty positions currently vacant and is not at the moment in the process of filling those positions. “That means the faculty work load has increased tremendously,” said Lopez.
In addition to shrinking staff, the university is taking steps in other areas at reducing costs, said Lopez.
On the vehicle fleet, said Lopez, the university has reduced the size and reduced travel, including the use of smaller vehicles for travel around campus. “They cost a lot less to operate,” he said.
“We’ve reduced expenses in every category so that the burden is shared,” said Lopez, “and have done it without furloughs or layoffs. We’re hoping that what we do today will offset any future budget concerns.”
Lopez told the Board of Regents on Nov. 18 that the university has accommodated a 16 percent budget cut from the state during the past two years by across-the-board reductions, largely by halting wages and leaving many open positions vacant.
A university statement said that if the state authorizes more cuts during the 2011 legislative session – which appears likely – the school will begin to scrutinize individual departments to identify cost-saving measures.
However, Peter Gerity, vice-president of academic affairs, said the academic departments have been creative in ways to reduce costs, such as employing adjunct and part-time instructors.
In 2008, New Mexico Tech had approximately 1,300 employees. But now, the university has fewer than 1,000 on its payroll.
The state has slashed funding of higher education by $122 million over two years, with 97 percent of those cuts targeting public schools, said Lopez.
“We’re trying to sensitize policy-makers that we [the public universities] are bearing virtually all of the negative impact of these cuts, with two-year schools not shouldering an equitable portion of the cuts,” said Lopez. “That’s an issue we’ll keep harping on.”

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