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Study: Half Of NM's Colleges Spending Too Much

More than half of New Mexico's 24 colleges and universities aren't meeting standards for financial health, and they are putting their students and their accreditations at risk, said a report Tuesday from the state's Legislative Finance Committee.

And two institutions – Western New Mexico University and Northern New Mexico College – spent nearly twice the national benchmarks on administration, “indicating they are overspending on their institution's executives and administrative operations and not enough on providing instruction for their students,” the 72-page report said.

The report said that because the schools are facing shrinking enrollments and lower levels of state financial support, they will have to find was to become more financially efficient.

“Current fiscal operations of some HEIs (higher education institutions) are placing institutional accreditations and students at risk,” said the report, which examined the cost of higher education in the state. “More than half of New Mexico’s HEIs are not meeting a benchmark indicating financial health."

The state's “Higher Education Department placed Luna Community College, Northern New Mexico College and the University of New Mexico in an 'enhanced fiscal oversight' program due to various concerns about fiscal mismanagement,” the report said. “HEIs must downsize and become more efficient. Without these curbs on spending, institutions could raise tuition and fees in the coming years, threatening college affordability.”

Here are some excerpts from the report:

- “New Mexico students risk losing these low-cost college opportunities, however, as HEIs grapple with declining revenues from falling enrollment and slow growth in state support. With the highest poverty rate in the nation, even small tuition increases will

threaten many New Mexican’s ability to afford a college education.”

- “Perhaps most concerning: Students at Central New Mexico Community College and New Mexico Junior College had loan default rates near or above 30 percent for at least two consecutive cohort years. Should these two institutions fail to keep their default rates below 30 percent, nearly 15 thousand students at the institutions risk losing access to approximately $37.3 million in federal financial aid.”

- “Cost of higher education remains a concern because decreasing state support generally leads to increased tuition. Though New Mexico boasts some of the most affordable in-state tuition in the country, it also has the highest default rate on federal student loans. As such, HEIs have little room to raise tuition without drastically affecting college affordability.”

The report urged the state Legislature to find ways to help the colleges and universities rein in their spending.

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