Tuition for Texans could be rising at ENMU

Mike Linn

The Legislative Finance Committee is proposing a cap on funding for Texans and other out-of-state students who pay in-state tuition at New Mexico universities.
If the proposed legislation passes, Eastern New Mexico University officials may have to tweak the current program allowing Texans who live within 135 miles of Eastern’s campus to pay in-state tuition.
Eastern President Steven Gamble is opposed to the proposed changes, claiming Texans paying in-state tuition bring more money into the state’s economy than the state allocates for their education.
The economic impact of the 258 Texans attending Eastern is $3.7 million to the economy of eastern New Mexico, according to figures from the Waiver Study Group.
“It’s in the state’s best interest for them to come,” Gamble said. “Texans spend more money over here on their education than it costs to educate them, but there is a number of folks in the center of the state who aren’t affected by this one way or the other and they just think ‘hey, here’s a way the state can save money…’”
Officials at the LFC said the state pays between $3,000 and $4,000 annually for every student paying in-state tuition to cover their costs of education.
The proposed cap would halt state spending at $8.6 million, the amount the state allocated last year for out-of-state students paying in-state tuition.
Typically the state increases the amount by about $2 million a year, said Arley Williams, the LFC’s principal analyst for higher education.
“The institutions could continue to take Texas students under this program up to the cap; beyond the cap the institutions basically couldn’t pass on the forgone revenue to the general fund but could make it up out of institutional funds or address it in any way that the board of regents decide,” Williams said.
The problem for Eastern is competition with Texas universities that allow students living in border states to pay in-state tuition.
In the 2002 fall semester, for example, 1,159 New Mexicans were registered at either Texas Tech University, West Texas A & M or South Plains College. By contrast, only 230 Texans attended ENMU.
“As far as their rules I don’t think they have any enforcement on where the student comes from as long it’s a bordering state,” said Sen. Stuart Ingle of Portales. “We’re losing our students because of the game they started playing and we either compete with them or continually get whipped.”
Ingle said Eastern will be affected much worse than New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, where competition for cross-border Texas universities isn’t as bad. He said he will try to work with Legislators to make the Legislation more Eastern friendly.
If the proposed cap passes during the Legislative Session, Gamble said tuitions for ENMU students currently protected the 135-mile rule will not increase.
What may happen, Gamble said, is a decrease in the amount of future incoming Texans covered under the rule.