Dwindling State Resources Is Straining UNM-LA

UNM-LA faculty and staff at a gathering Wednesday morning at the campus. Courtesy/UNM-LA

UNM-LA srudents, faculty and staff send a heart wave to the community from the capus kiva. Photo by Nancy Coombs/UNM-LA

Aerial view of the UNM-Los Alamos campus. Courtesy/UNM-LA


Los Alamos Daily Post

UNM-LA has made great strides in bringing new programs like Dual Credit for Los Alamos High School students and internships. However, with the continued loss of state funding, maintaining these programs is putting a strain on UNM-LA resources. 

A mail-in ballot, which will be sent to Los Alamos voters in early January, will include two items, one related to UNM-Los Alamos and the other related to the Los Alamos Public Schools.

The mil levy for UNM-Los Alamos will provide much needed operational funds to support programs on campus, while the bond question for LAPS will provide funding for building renovations.

UNM-LA works closely with LAPS on a variety of initiatives and sharing the ballot reduces the cost of the election for both organizations. Both of the ballot questions support education in this community.

A vote FOR the UNM-LA Mil Levy will allow the college to restore key positions, continue its popular programs, and expand into new programs to meet Los Alamos and work force needs. 

“At UNM-LA, we have positive momentum, but we are running on very limited resources,” CEO Dr. Cynthia Rooney said. “We need additional operational funds to be able to restore, continue and expand strategic programs.”

Rooney explained that the college exists to help serve the educational needs of this community. It provides academic classes, community education classes, adult basic education classes and summer youth programs. The college also hosts many community events. It works with the community to develop and revise new programs such as the fire science program, EMS program, electromechanical technology program and the recently added Personal Care Attendant and Certified Nursing Assistant programs.

“Like many others in this community, I believe in education,” Rooney said. “I recognize the opportunities that education has provided to me, and more importantly, I have seen the way that education has changed the lives of students. As I speak to various individuals in this community, people tell me about their experience with UNM-LA. I typically hear stories of great teachers, introduction to careers, community enrichment classes, dual credit classes, and even experiences where people met their spouse in a class at UNM-LA!”

UNM-LA has a reputation for quality and innovation in the state of New Mexico and is growing in enrollment and responding to community requests for new programs, such as the EMS program, a Personal Care Attendant program, and a Certified Nursing Assistant program starting this Spring. The recent programs are made possible by a combination of grant money and local donations. 

UNM-LA has an active dual credit program with the local high school. In 2015-2016, 299 students from LAHS took dual credit classes from UNM-LA. By state statue, tuition is waived for these students in an effort to encourage New Mexico students to get a head start toward a college career. At a recent event, an individual from HED described dual credit as “essentially volunteer work that colleges do for the state.” 

Last year, in non-credit programs, UNM-LA had 182 youth participate in summer programs, 420 individuals in community education, and 245 students in adult basic education programs. UNM-LA also hosted 173 community events on campus.

“We have a motto that states, ‘Start here, go anywhere’,” Rooney said. “I see that motto in the lives of our students. Students from Los Alamos start with UNM-Los Alamos and then transfer to UNM, New Mexico State, New Mexico Tech, University of California schools, and many other higher education institutions. I also enjoy seeing many of them return to Los Alamos after completing their degrees. We are so pleased to see many students who complete an Associate’s degree at UNM-LA, stay in this area, securing jobs with LANL and local businesses based on their UNM-LA experience.” 

UNM-LA receives funding from six basic sources:

  • state appropriations;
  • tuition and fees;
  • grants and contracts;
  • local mil levy;
  • sales and services; and
  • other. 

UNM-Los Alamos does not receive any funding from UNM-Albuquerque.

Since 2008, state funding of UNM-Los Alamos has decreased by 32 percent; going from providing 54 percent of the funding to only 33 percent of total funding. The state of New Mexico continues to cut funding to all higher education institutions due to the serious budget issues that the state is facing. During that period of time, tuition has increased an average of 6 percent annually, and its contribution to total revenues has gone from 12 percent to 23 percent. Revenues from contracts and grants also have increased from 12 percent to 19 percent. 

At a recent Legislative Finance Committee meeting, one of the Senators noted: “Because of cuts in state funding, the communities that colleges are located in will need to pick up more of the cost of the colleges.” 

In New Mexico, there are 17 colleges that have support from their communities through a “local mil levy”. The 2016 rates range from 4.747 for UNM-Gallup to .851 at ENMU Roswell, which is the only campus that receives a lower mil levy support from their community than UNM-Los Alamos. The average rate is 2.46. 

UNM-LA currently has a 1 mil rate which was passed in 1980 when UNM-LA came into existence as a branch campus of UNM. If the mil levy passes in January, the new total 2 mil rate for UNM-LA will still be below the average rate of community support for local colleges.

In 2013, UNM-LA approached the voters of Los Alamos with a request for an additional 2 mil, which failed by a margin of 246 votes. In the January election, the request is only for an increase of 1 mil. For homeowners whose property value is listed as below $300,000 in the Los Alamos County Assessor’s tax records, the annual increase would be less than $100. (The increase will be $33.33 per $100,000 of the “full value” that appears on the property tax bills sent out by the county.)

During this campaign, an organization called “Education Drives Discovery” has been created to promote the mil levy campaign for UNM-LA. This organization may be reached by telephone at 505.423.0459, or by email at info@educationdrivesdiscovery.org. The organization also has a website at www.educationdrivesdiscovery.org and a facebook page at facebook.com/EducationDrivesDiscovery.