Governor announces new funding formula

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Gov. Susana Martinez officially unveiled the state’s new higher education funding formula Wednesday, one which places a premium on course completion and degrees conferred.

Addressing a meeting of university and college presidents, regents and governing board members at New Mexico Tech, Martinez said the new formula marked a move away from subsidizing the state’s 25 institutions of higher learning based on square footage and the number of seats filled on a given day at the start of every semester, and toward more deliberate preparation for the future needs of New Mexico’s workforce.

Martinez said the new plan is in keeping with her administration’s efforts to reduce paperwork and make government more streamlined, decreasing the number of spreadsheets required from 125 to just seven.

Following up on Martinez’s remarks, Secretary of Higher Education Dr. Jose Z. Garcia went into greater detail about the formula, which takes effect with the new fiscal year in July.

“What we’d like to see is an educated workforce 10 to 15 years down the line,” Garcia said.

The new formula provides a subsidy to colleges and university for each course completed by a student, each degree awarded and each “at-risk” student who graduates. In particular, the formula will reward universities for graduating students with degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, health and mathematics.

Garcia said initially no institution will gain or lose more than 2 percent of its funding, and the ratio of funding to the two-year and four-year colleges and universities will remain roughly equal.

Although the formula clearly sets a new direction for higher education in New Mexico, more work will need to be done in some areas, such as rewarding two-year colleges for students who successfully transfer to four-year institutions.

“It’s very clear that in order to have the workforce we need in the future, we need to create a better pipeline or pipelines moving students and getting them the kinds of skills that will be adequate to the task at hand,” Garcia said.

Related issues have to do with making it easier for students to transfer from one institution in the state to another without losing credit for work already completed, and improving remediation success rates.

A critical part of the plan will require working with the Economic Development Department and the Department of Workforce Solutions to accurately assess future workforce needs.

“The implications of this formula are clearly that we are going to have to work more closely together,” Garcia said. “We will need to behave more as a community than we have in the past.”

Current projections estimate that by 2018 the number of jobs in New Mexico requiring science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health degrees will have increased from about 43,000 to about 50,000.

Garcia said in spite of having some world class industries here, New Mexico still has trouble attracting high paying jobs. For example, he said Intel had chosen to expand in Arizona instead of New Mexico because the workforce in Arizona was more adequate to its needs.

Garcia indicated New Mexico also compares unfavorably to Arizona in the return on investment in education.

“Education in New Mexico is relatively expensive compared with other states,” he said. “In New Mexico it costs $53,000 in taxpayer money every time we get someone a BA — in Arizona it’s more like $39,000.”

 


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