ENMU: Fingers crossed over apparent shortfall in higher ed money

By Tony Parra

Eastern New Mexico University president Steven Gamble weighed in on ongoing legislation which would affect the university, such as capital outlay requests and expansion of the lottery scholarship eligibility.

The New Mexico Higher Education Department is recommending $121 million for capital outlay requests throughout the state of New Mexico for higher education institutions, such as Eastern New Mexico University and Clovis Community College, according to an associated press report.

The initial capital outlay requests from university presidents and college representatives was $429 million, according to the AP story.

Some of the items ENMU representatives are requesting are $1.5 million for the new KENW broadcast center and $6 million to renovate the Music Building.

“Right now, nothing has been enacted on,” Steven Gamble, ENMU president, said. “Everything is still in progress.”
Gamble said there are two different bills concerning funding for university construction projects.

“In one bill we do well in, the other we don’t” Gamble said. “The bill we do well in is with the legislators and the one we don’t well in is from the executive branch.”

Gamble said in the NMHED recommendation ENMU officials would receive $1 million for the Music Building and $1 million for infrastructure. Through the bill sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, the university would receive $4.5 million for the Music Building and $4.5 million for infrastructure, according to Gamble, which is the bill university officials are favoring.

Gamble cautions it’s still too early to know just how much money the university will receive.

In a Clovis News-Journal story, Gov. Bill Richardson pledged $2 million for the Clovis Community College Allied Health Center, roughly half the cost of the project.

New Mexico Highlands University president Manny Aragon had his requests cut down from $51 million to $9 million in the department’s recommendations. Four of the eight requests are: $28.6 million for maintenance improvements to the university; $12 million to purchase land located in Rio Rancho; $12 million to design and construct a student services center at NMHU and $3.5 million to design and construct an early childhood center, according to the New Mexico Legislature Web site.

There are also different pieces of legislation trying to expand the eligibility of the lottery scholarship program to include the children of military personnel stationed out of New Mexico, tribal colleges and students who graduated up to two years earlier from high school. Currently, only students who within six months of their high school graduation can apply for the scholarship.

Gamble said a concern is the long-term effect on the lottery scholarship fund.

“The concern is long-term, what’s going to happen 10 years from now to support the lottery scholarship program,” Gamble said. “All of us would like to help as many kids as we can go to school.”