(Albuquerque) According to a new study by the Rio Grande Foundation, New Mexico’s higher education system holds the possibility of significant, relatively painless cost savings totaling $80 million annually. The study, “Poor Performers in New Mexico Higher Ed: Budget Increases and Inefficiency,” by Adjunct Scholar Kevin Rollins, separately analyzes per-pupil expenditures of New Mexico’s four and two year universities.
According to the study, the most expensive university and community college are twice as costly as the least expensive institution in their category on a per student basis. This is true for both universities and the community colleges.
Among New Mexico’s community colleges, high-cost provider Las Vegas-based Luna Community College spends an astounding $13,515 per full-time student equivalent. The low-cost provider New Mexico State University Doña Ana spends only $6,796.
Among New Mexico’s universities, the Socorro-based New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology spends $22,030 annually per full-time student equivalent. Portales-based Eastern New Mexico University, on the other hand, spends $10,901.
Rollins, the study’s author, acknowledges that small discrepancies among the various schools in per-student efficiency are inevitable, particularly with regard to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology which predominates in specialized and highly technical schooling. However, Rollins was able to find no explanation as to why Luna Community College, for example, would cost nearly twice as much as NMSU-Doña Ana? Additionally, how is it that four of the community colleges actually cost more than two of the four-year schools?
Rollins also analyzed the six-year graduation rates and found little correspondence between costs and degree production. New Mexico Highlands University, the second most expensive in the list has a pitiful 0.2 six-year graduation rate. That means after six years at the institution only 1 in 5 students graduated.
Notably, Rio Grande Foundation analyst J. Scott Moody has previously pointed out that New Mexico’s higher education system is the single most bloated in the nation. While Rollins did not analyze employment levels among the various schools, this may explain some of the major cost differentials among the institutions. The full study is available here: https://riograndefoundation.org/documents/2016/05/budget-increases-and-inefficiency.pdf.