I was delighted to read that my fellow county councilors passed a resolution in favor of the special election to consider a property tax levy to help UNM-LA.
Even though I was away for that meeting, I want to voice my support for this resolution, and furthermore urge every voter to approve this ballot question.
I have many reasons for my support, but I wanted to concentrate on a specific value that UNM-LA provides to our community and one that my family has benefited from directly. A healthy UNM-LA is a great resource for our high school students, and helps in many ways to make them better prepared for the future.
My three boys graduated from LAHS, and all three of them took classes at UNM-LA. These classes gave them a good (and eye-opening) preview of the rigors of a college class, and gave them a head start by transferring credits to their eventual college. When I researched the statistics on this “dual credit” opportunity, I was surprised by the large number of students who took advantage of this program.
In the last five years, there were almost 1,399 dual credit students, and last spring, 70 percent of them were LAHS students. In total, more than 3,100 college credit hours were earned by dual credit students, all free of tuition. Since 80 percent of our graduates go on to New Mexico colleges, almost all of their dual credit courses transfer to their college transcript.
The range of classes taken by our students range from math to philosophy to computer courses, as well as career-technical courses in business and emergency medical services. This variety means that all students, whether college-bound or not, can benefit from having a vibrant college across the street from their high school.
All this benefit, however, comes at a cost. Although this is a great bargain for our community, the State does not permit UNM-LA to charge these high school students tuition, costing our college $345,000 in waived tuition. The revenue from this levy (which will cost me about what I spend at Ruby K’s each Sunday) will go directly to the day-to-day costs of this branch college, and will retain and broaden courses available to our kids.
Our community has been very supportive of education before, and we have a new high school and middle school to show for it, as well as other improvements across our school district. I see supporting UNM-LA as another mechanism by which we can use our taxes to directly benefit our community and our schools. Having a strong educational environment for our children directly impacts our quality of life, and is a key reason why our home values are so much higher than those of surrounding communities, so, whether we have children in school or not, we benefit from UNM-LA.
There are many other reasons for an affirmative vote and there is no way to answer all questions or concerns in one article. I invite you to attend a unique Town Hall on the subject at 7 p.m., Aug. 29 at UNM-LA Lecture Hall, Room 230, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. This will be an entertaining as well as educational evening, as the Los Alamos School Hilltalkers debate team will argue the pros and cons of the mil levy question, followed by a presentation by UNM-LA Dean of Instruction, Dr. Cindy Rooney, and ending with a question and answer session.
I urge you to find out more about this upcoming election through this town hall and elsewhere, and discuss what you learn with your friends and neighbors. I am confident that once you become fully informed of the value of UNM-LA to our community, you will share in my support.