This is in response to an editorial on March 24 titled “Student president best look out for the governor.”
I really enjoyed reading the editorial writing of Managing Editor Mike Linn on my continued efforts to fight Governor Richardson over our differing views on higher education in New Mexico.
I want to say I do not disagree with everything Richardson does, as some people in this community seem to think. I only speak to the disagreements that I have with the governor and some of his proposals and cuts he has made.
As student body president at Eastern New Mexico University and director of the Associated Students of New Mexico (ASNM), I have been chosen by the students to speak out on their behalf when they feel like they are being misrepresented. I have no preference between the governor, state representatives or state senators when it comes to speaking out for the well being of the students of higher education in New Mexico.
If there is something that will negatively affect the students being proposed, I will speak out against whoever is proposing the idea.
That said, there have been several instances in the past few months where we believe that has been the case. First, Governor Richardson proposed that a $2 million piece of the New Mexico Lottery Fund surplus go toward funding “need based” scholarships. This would allow some students to double dip into a fund that was created to help all students equally.
Along those same lines, it would have set a precedent for other entities to want to raid the surplus for other proposed spending ventures.
There were several bills being discussed in both the House and Senate that would negatively affect the Lottery Success Scholarship. I, along with the students, opposed those measures as well. I am not being partisan in my opposition. Both Republicans and Democrats have proposed things that would have done the Lottery Success Scholarship harm, and I came out against them all.
In two days, over 2,000 students in higher education from across the state of New Mexico signed a petition saying these changes to the Lottery Success Scholarship were a bad idea. By the end of the Legislative session this year, Governor Richardson changed his mind and retracted this idea and all bills in the Legislature died in committee.
Another instance where I have came out against the governor was when he made his vetoes into the capital outlay. While some see these cuts as minimal, according to the previous March 24 editorial this includes ENMU vice president of business affairs Scott Smart; the results are the same statewide. These cuts to capital outlay cause the universities to look for the money elsewhere.
Elsewhere is most likely the pocketbooks of the students and their families through tuition and fee increases. That is where my opposition lies.
The biggest travesty in higher education is the tuition credit that universities are forced to pay the state government. For those unaware of what the tuition credit is, it’s a percentage of money the state government takes away from universities that goes into the general fund.
In the last couple of years, the tuition credit has ranged from 3 to 4 percent. So, when universities raise tuition 6 percent, 3 to 4 percent of that goes back to the state government to be spent as they wish.
This money does not even have to come back into higher education.
ASNM came out in opposition of this rule or regulation that allows the state government to take money from universities to pay for who knows what?
Overall, we wanted to see a cap put on how much the tuition credit would cost universities, and as a result cost the students.
I am in no way waging a war of words with the governor or any of our local or state officials. I just want the voices of the students in higher education in New Mexico to be heard.
I believe a healthy debate from all sides will result in the best decisions being made. That is the goal of the Associated Students of New Mexico.
Bob Cornelius is ENMU student body president and director of Associated Students of New Mexico. He can be contacted at: