ENMU officials raise enrollment concerns
Last updated 9/11/2021 at 3:48pm
ALBUQUERQUE — Eastern New Mexico University fell just below the 5,000 mark for enrollment this semester, with the Portales campus on Friday reporting a fall-to-fall enrollment drop of 5.3%.
According to a university release issued as Friday’s board of regents meeting began, the biggest drop among undergraduates was in first-time freshmen and sophomores — each down 21.1%, while the number of juniors declined by 6.8%, and seniors declined by 2.7%.
“The greatest drops were in freshman and sophomore (students),” Portales President and System Chancellor Patrice Caldwell told regents, “which we would have expected. We know that now; we can target that very specifically.”
The branch campuses of the ENMU system reported doing a little better, but both presidents shared concerns.
Roswell branch President Shawn Powell said enrollment was down about 6% from the fall 2020 semester, but said dual credit enrollment numbers were pending and would likely lead to enrollment staying flat. Ruidoso branch President Ryan Trosper said the college is up 8.8% on headcount, but its full-time enrollment is only up about 2%.
“What we’re seeing is our students are coming back,” Trosper said, “but they’re taking fewer courses.”
Regents met for four hours Friday on the campus of Central New Mexico Community College. They were in Albuquerque because Friday was ENMU Alumni Day at Isotopes Park. The News attended the meeting virtually.
Also Friday, regents had some discussion on new course offerings, necessitated by the legalization of recreational cannabis in New Mexico. The board was joined by Shanon Jaramillo of Albuquerque-based Seedcrest, which offers courses of study for people looking to enter the cannabis industry. Jaramillo initially felt like she should compete with colleges, but now believes cooperation to be the wiser move.
Seedcrest does have a partnership with Northern New Mexico College, and Portales farmer Heath Grider said he’d like to see ENMU join the fold so he can get qualified workers for a transition to growing cannabis.
“Somebody’s going to have to do this,” Grider said, “and I sure would like to see it in my hometown.”
Jaramillo said there are around 15,000 jobs on the horizon before recreational cannabis shops are scheduled to open in April, and there are not enough credentialed individuals to take them. Jaramillo said the state already has 119,000 medical marijuana customers, which represents about 5% of the state population.
“That,” Jaramillo said, “is going to spike very rapidly when doors open in April 2022.”
The discussion was not tied to any particular action, but regents seemed amenable to offering such an educational path — whether through Seedcrest or somebody else. Board President Dan Patterson said he opposed New Mexico legalizing recreational cannabis, but as a regent he wants to ensure ENMU trains people for jobs in the community.
Other highlights from the meeting:
• In her report to the board, Caldwell felt it appropriate to start by noting the passing of Bill Joy, a former coach and athletic trainer who was one of the most rabid Greyhounds fans at games. Anybody who’d gone to a Greyhound game, Caldwell said, was likely familiar with Joy, who was inducted into the department’s Hall of Honors in 1991. “He will be sorely missed,” Caldwell said.
• Athletic Director Paul Weir brought up three items during a department report. He said he was hoping to add an athletics employee focused on student success.
Weir said he is looking at reinstating men’s soccer as soon as possible, hopefully with the 2022 season. He noted ENMU would be the only men’s college soccer program in the state and could be a beacon; “The success of New Mexico United has gone past my wildest expectations.” Caldwell said she hoped to have more detailed information for regents in their Oct. 1 meeting, and noted time would be of the essence because the university would have to recruit a coach and a roster of about 30.
Regarding rodeo, Weir said he is looking for ways to support Albert Flinn’s program but notes a complicated structure because rodeo is not an NCAA sport. “Albert comes to us on some things and doesn’t come to us on others,” Weir said.
• Regents approved travel policy changes, including changing the mileage rate to 80% of the Internal Revenue Service rate, effective Jan. 1 of each year. Board Vice President Lance Pyle said attaching the rate to IRS rates instead of a fixed rate means regents don’t have to repeatedly change policy. The current IRS mileage rate is 52 cents per mile.
• Regents approved the ENMU-Ruidoso campus’ Nexus Phase III project. Trosper said the work was not to exceed $3 million for exterior work on the facility, with costs difficult to gauge due to material and labor price increases. A key portion of the work would improve the student entrance, which Trosper jokingly likened to the “Frogger” video game with the traffic between the college and parking lots.
• Regents approved cost estimates for lighting and surveillance system upgrades at the Roswell campus. Powell said the school has most of the $2.6 million through state capital outlay dollars, but would need to use $292,000 in reserves.
• The board accepted the donation of 1401 W. 17th St. in Portales, the former residence of the late Dallan Sanders. Noelle Bartl of the ENMU Foundation said the renovated house can be used for events and provide lodging for guest speakers or visiting job candidates. The move will require Higher Education Department approval.
• Vice President of Business Affairs Scott Smart said renovations on the president’s residence are moving along with the exception of the kitchen cabinets. The university has not received a shipping date from the out-of-state vendor.
“It’s likely that the entire house is going to be done except for the kitchen cabinets,” Smart said. “Our hands are tied, for lack of a better phrase.”
Smart said he has been asked why the college didn’t go with a local vendor; he said the ones he found that could handle the work are booked for months.
• Smart told regents the college is looking at bidding Roosevelt Hall renovations in January. Pyle asked if that could happen more quickly, as he envisions labor and material increases only going up from here and he was concerned about deadlines to spend the capital outlay awards. Smart said the dollars have a summer 2022 deadline, and they’ll be expended quickly following the bid process.
• Smart said the university has spent $15.3 million of the $21.5 million it has received in federal COVID-19 relief funds. About $12.3 million was spent on direct payment to students per federal requirements, while $3 million was spent on various pandemic supplies and $700,000 on refunded fees to students. Smart said he had no concerns about spending the remaining $6.2 million by the January deadline.
• Smart told regents the university is looking into razing Harding Hall and placing a new Student Academic Services building on that spot. The state has recommended building a smaller SAS building than the current 32,000 square foot building, but Smart said a new, more efficient building of 22,000 square feet could fulfill ENMU’s needs.
• The board met for 35 minutes in executive session to discuss two matters of pending or threatened litigation and one personnel matter, but took no action before adjourning.
• The next meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Oct. 1 in the regents room.