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ENMU-R employees get first pay raise in years; College president says enrollment growth and financial stability allowed for boost

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“We are the Houston Astros of community colleges in the state,” says Dr. John Madden, president of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, as he described his team’s feelings about coming back from several difficult years to a point where employees can receive raises again. He is seen standing while he asks approval for the pay increases from the ENMU Board of Regents, which met in Roswell Friday morning. From left are Dr. Jeff Elwell, president of the ENMU system and regents Ed Tatum, Dr. Dan Patterson, Terry Othick and Kekoa Von Schriltz. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Dr. John Madden of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell pitched a baseball analogy to describe his team’s feeling of success as they have reached a point after three years where the university can afford to raise employee pay.

Madden addressed the ENMU Board of Regents during its Friday meeting on the Roswell campus.

The board and ENMU leaders discussed numerous topics, including a reiteration of support for dual-credit programs and continued discussions of what will happen at the state level to higher education in New Mexico. Legislators and various committees are talking about consolidating governing boards for the state’s 37 higher education institutions and are seeking ways to decrease administrative costs while increasing funding per student.

ENMU officials pointed out that Portales and Roswell have some of the lowest administrative costs in the state. Ruidoso’s percentage rate of administrative costs as compared to its number of enrolled students is high because its number of full-time equivalent students only total about 326, but the dollar amount is actually small, said Dr. Clayton Alred, president of the Ruidoso branch.

In requesting approval of the 2018 pay increase, Madden had a celebratory attitude.

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“We are the Houston Astros of community colleges in the state of New Mexico,” Madden told the regents. “We have come a long, long way. We have had some tough, tough times in the past. … We have literally gone from losing a hundred games to winning the World Series.”

Madden explained that the university had many difficult years financially, during which time employees had not received salary increases. But, he explained, strong enrollment growth for the past two years and good financial stability allowed the university to boost pay a bit.

“We made a commitment to our faculty and staff that if we keep this up we would increase compensation,” he said. “That proposal is before you now.”

Asked to give his viewpoint, Dr. Jeff Elwell, the new president of the Eastern New Mexico University system, said, “We talked at the three-campus retreat about the need on all campuses to come up with a plan by December of a minimum of 2 percent (increase). Dr. Madden informed me that they were already working on one, so I am fine. They beat the December deadline. There is no penalty for turning in homework early.”

With the regents’ unanimous approval, all regular full- and part-time faculty and staff will receive the 3 percent hike starting in January. Adjunct faculty and student employees will not have pay increases, Madden said.

About 225 faculty and staff will be affected, he explained after the meeting. University officials said that the total dollar amount of the compensation increase was not available for release by press time.

Madden also told regents that the university had received official notice of its reaffirmation of accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission in October and that its associate degree in nursing program had passed its accreditation review after a site visit to campus in late October.

In other discussions, Elwell, Alred and Madden voiced their continued support for the dual-credit courses, in which high-school students can enroll in college courses and receive credit toward both their high school diplomas and their college degrees. Both the New Mexico Public Education Department and the Higher Education Department cover costs associated with the program, but students do not have to pay for tuition, fees or most course materials.

The increasing costs statewide of the program have led to questioning about how the program is structured and operated and whether students are really benefiting from the courses by saving time and money that otherwise would be spent during their college years.

The three campus heads answered regents’ questions and said that they would welcome changes that would increase how much community colleges receive for teaching the courses, which is about $6.37 a course for ENMU-R . But they added that they consider the cost to institutions fairly minimal. They also said the program is valuable to universities in their recruitment efforts.

Madden said the unique nature of ENMU-R, which has many programs that focus on health and vocational training, enables numerous Chaves County high school students to utilize dual-credit to receive certificates or associate’s degrees for careers that they can begin upon finishing high school.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.