The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Financial report shows CCC scores high

ENMU ranks just below state average


October 25, 2017

Eastern New Mexico is in relatively fair financial health despite a Tuesday report that higher education is missing its fiscal mark in New Mexico, according to local college administrators.

The non-partisan Legislative Finance Committee on Tuesday released a 72-page report, highlighting falling enrollment, shrinking funds for colleges and universities, and the threat of increased tuition.

The report said New Mexico “spends the highest proportion of taxpayer dollars on higher education in the nation, yet is the poorest state in the nation.”

The analysts behind the report met with legislators Tuesday, recommending changes to the budgeting processes of universities and added funding for the state’s higher education department.

The report made use of a “composite financial index” — a score of a higher education institution’s financial stability — which rated the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University respectively at 2.5 and 2.0, below the state average of 3.9.

Eastern New Mexico University scored a 3.5, and Clovis Community College scored an 8.4.

CCC’s high grade, second only to New Mexico Military Institute, is the result of careful budgeting, “mostly because we’re always concerned about the volatility of state funds, and we don’t want to be caught not able to handle ourselves,” said President Becky Rowley.

She added that an 11.3 percent rise in expenditures from 2007 to 2016, as noted in the report, was due to “the cost of doing business.”

“Even if you’re not growing overall, if you’re growing in certain areas — which we have — you’re going to have additional expenses,” she said.

ENMU’s expenditures over those nine years increased by only 2.1 percent, which the report said were increases in instruction and institutional support costs.

“During that time period, we had 30 percent growth in enrollment, and were still able to keep that average inflation and cost ... so much lower than everybody else,” said ENMU Vice President of Business Affairs Scott Smart.

ENMU President Jeff Elwell said the university has room for improvement, but "I felt that a lot of the things they were talking about in general, with broad strokes, really wasn't us."

ENMU is faring well financially, according to Smart, but he was disappointed that the report gave the university a score of 3.5, ignoring work it has completed to lower utility costs on campus.

“Our utility cost is about a dollar a square foot. The state average is two to three times higher than that. We have 1.4 million square feet on our campus,” he said. “If we were close to the average, and say that’s close to $3 or $2 1/2, we’d be spending $2 1/2 million more on utility costs than we are right now.”

Smart said ENMU’s future is looking bright, with pushes to become less reliant on state funding.

“(The state) just can’t simply afford to provide the level of funding that we’ve enjoyed in the past, so we have to become as efficient as we can,” he said.

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