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State report shows ENMU-R performs well

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Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell is performing well during difficult times in higher education, information from a state report indicates.

“We absolutely love it when third parties evaluate us,” said Dr. John Madden, president of ENMU-R, which is part of the Eastern New Mexico University system. “We are doing a great job, and it shows.”

At a time when many universities in New Mexico have increased spending but are struggling with student outcomes, ENMU-R has cut overall spending by 16 percent from fiscal year 2007 to fiscal year 2016. Meanwhile, it ranks in the 80 percentile among peer institutions nationwide for its graduation rates, according to the “Higher Education Cost Drivers and Cost Savings” report of the Legislative Finance Council.

The New Mexico Military Institute was not included in the LFC program evaluation report released Oct. 24, which analyzed information from 24 publicly funded universities and colleges. NMMI is considered one of seven public specialty higher education institutions in the state. Those institutions receive their state funding using different formulas.

ENMU-R had an overall graduation rate of 32 percent for full-time students enrolling in 2013 who completed degrees and certificates within 150 percent of the time expected, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. That places ENMU-R high among its peer institutions.

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“We are in the 80 percentile,” Madden said. “For lack of a better term, give us a ‘B’ on that one.”

Compared to the other universities and colleges, ENMU-R is also doing well financially, with plenty of reserves and a strong composite financial index of 6.1.

“It would matter to students that we are one of the most fiscally stable institutions in the state,” said Madden. “So when there is all this talking going on about closing and mergers and consolidations, we should not be involved in those discussions. We are one of the most solid institutions of higher education in the state.”

The Legislative Finance Commission report did indicate some weaker points.

The report showed that overall enrollment at the university decreased by 26 percent from fall 2006 to fall 2016. But Madden said that 2006 enrollment was an anomaly due to a specialty program offered for a third party.

“There is a little bit of a sting there, but there is a reason for that. In 2006, we had a large third-party contract (with a U.S. military branch), and there were a lot of people in that. There were over a thousand people in that program, but it ended,” he said. “That (trend line) will change not next year, but in two years, when that year washes out of the system.”

The school also ranked high — at 61 percent — among peer institutions nationally for instructional support expenditures, but Madden said that is because of the numbers of grants received. The expenditures include money spent on grant program directors, even if the funds paying for directors come from federal sources.

The university also is shown as having increased facility space quite a bit. The square footage of facilities compared to full-time equivalent enrollment grew 56 percent over six years, from 220 in 2009 to 341 in 2015.

“We have programs that require a lot of square footage, such as aviation, which has its own building,” Madden said. “We are not asking taxpayers to add any square footage to our campus. We are simply in the process of repurposing what we already have.”

Madden said he intends to share the report at upcoming meetings with faculty and staff to tell them they are doing a good job, but he added, “I remind people what the ‘F’ (in Legislative Finance Committee) stands for. This is about money.”

The report also notes that the main campus at ENMU has increased the amount of money it charges the Roswell campus for various administrative services by 35 percent during the past 10 years, without the local campus having in place financial agreements or memoranda of understanding to account for the increases.

The report recommends several steps to control the costs of all branch universities in the state, including establishing firm financial agreements with the parent universities.

The report was issued to examine costs and some student outcomes at public higher education institutions and to recommend ways for New Mexico universities to address two major concerns.

One concern is that the two primary sources of income for institutions, state funds and tuition and fees, likely will show little growth or will decrease in coming years. The other is that student outcomes, for some schools, are poor. As a result, New Mexico has the nation’s highest rate of college loan defaults. All but one university, New Mexico Tech, had default rates higher than the national average of 11.3 percent, and five institutions had default rates higher than their graduation rates. ENMU was not among those five.

The report lists many possible changes to increase efficiencies and outcomes at public universities and colleges. Recommendations included possible consolidation of governing boards for better oversight of operations; sharing of facilities, services and programs among universities as well as outside groups; and funding schools based on different measures of performance.

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

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