Letter To The Editor: UNM-LA Is A Great Community Asset

Los Alamos

Please join me in voting yes and supporting our local college, UNM-LA. Los Alamos residents are intelligent, caring, and sharing people. As citizens we enjoy great community assets including our schools, roads, parks, trails, libraries, and other public amenities. At times directly, but most often indirectly through our elected officials, we as a community decide which of these amenities we desire and are willing to pay for through our local taxes.

As citizens we are tasked with directly deciding the fate of UNM-LA. We really have three choices: do nothing (not voting), vote no, or vote yes. If we do nothing, then we give up a fundamental right to give direction as to where our tax dollars will be spent. If we vote no, we are saying we don’t value our local college.

I will be voting yes for UNM-LA. My reasons are personal. Without the jumpstart I was given by a community college, my life would be drastically different. During my early years in school I was identified as gifted and placed in a special program throughout my elementary years. For the most part, school was easy and I was able to breeze along without much effort. Unfortunately, boredom set in during my high school years and I found that I liked girls more than school and became a father and husband when I was a senior in high school. My Midwest values told me the right thing to do was to get a job and provide for my new family. I went to high school during the day and worked a horrible job at a beef packing house at night. I was fortunate enough to have a friend that pushed me to the fire department. I did well and was promoted within the department first to captain and later to assistant chief. Even with these personal accomplishments, I knew that I would never be satisfied without an education.

As the chief in charge of training, I was able to negotiate an agreement between two area community colleges that bore a new fire science associates degree program. I was one of many fire department members who enrolled and earned a degree. I followed this degree up with a bachelor’s and a master’s, and am now completing my second master’s program. Without the support I received from my local community college, I would not be in a position to be writing this editorial, which asks you for your support. 

We live in the highest educated and wealthiest per capita community in the state of New Mexico. In fact, we are one of the highest educated and wealthiest communities in our great nation. Our wealth as a community didn’t come as a result of luck, it came to us through education. Ironically, when we look across the entire state of New Mexico, only Roswell offers less local mil-levy support to their local community college than we do in Los Alamos.

Without our support, UNM-LA cannot continue to do the great work it has done in the past and does today. Funding from the state continues to dwindle. Many of our residents don’t understand that UNM-LA does not receive funding from the mothership (UNM) in Albuquerque. The affiliation with UNM allows our local college to utilize curriculum and issue degrees, but doesn’t provide funding to operate our local college. Funding for UNM-LA operations comes from state funding, tuition and other temporary sources like grants or donations. 

If you live in a $300,000 home, your local taxes will rise by about $9 per month if this proposal passes. This seems like a small price to pay to insure higher education is available to the next person who, like me, needs a little help in getting life on the right track. Please join me in showing gratitude for what education has done for you by voting yes for UNM-LA. 

Editor’s note: Troy Hughes is chief of the Los Alamos Fire Department writing this letter as a citizen of Los Alamos.