NM at bottom of higher education spending

Posted at: 03/19/2013 5:27 PM
Updated at: 03/20/2013 11:54 AM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico is near the bottom of yet another list, right where we don’t want to be. This time it’s cutbacks in spending on higher education.

New Mexico has made deeper cuts in public universities and colleges than most other states in the nation, and we can blame it on the recession that still has our state stuck in the mud.

New Mexico cut higher ed spending by $4,775 per student during the recession years from 2008 to 2013, among the deepest cuts in the country according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Meanwhile tuition has gone up 22 percent to make up for some of the spending cuts.

“Tuition has come up about $1,000 a year,” said economist Gerry Bradley of New Mexico Voices for Children. “What we’re doing is we’re squeezing the students both directions.”

Students feel it, especially those about to start college.

“I think it’s really disappointing, actually, because a large reason why I chose to go to UNM was because I couldn’t really afford to go anywhere else,” said Highland High School senior Cate Campbell. “How are we supposed to get out of the recession and get people into the workplace if we don’t have the proper education they need?”

“They’re going to take all these really smart high school  students who only come to UNM because of the money, and they’re going to push them out of state to better colleges and we’re going to lose a lot of really smart people,” said Sophia Abbey, another Highland senior who admits one of those smart people could be her.

“Business leaders have said over and over again that their companies need a well-educated workforce, said NM Voices director  Veronica Garcia. “ But New Mexico has chosen to cut investments in this area.”

The release of the CBPP report Tuesday comes on the heels of the state’s legislative session, in which lawmakers failed to come to an agreement on how best to fix the state’s lottery scholarship program. It’s running out of money rapidly, jeopardizing the college careers of thousands of students who would be unable to attend college without the financial assistance.