ENMU president optimistic despite attendance drop

CNJ Staff

Eastern New Mexico University officials are toiling to prop up student enrollment, which dipped by 10 percent last May, but sprung back, according to ENMU President Steven Gamble.

“Because we have been recruiting hard and contacting students, we are doing much better, and are now down 2.5 percent,” Gamble said during a Friday meeting of the ENMU Board of Regents.

A cloud still hangs over the university, as state funding is tethered to enrollment. Public colleges and universities in New Mexico lose a portion of their state appropriated money if their enrollment drops by 5 percent.

For now, ENMU has distanced itself far enough from that measure to hold onto its funding, said an optimistic Gamble. But state measures of enrollment are complex.
The number of semester credit hours taught at universities and colleges is factored in the state funding formula, whereas head count isn’t, Gamble said.

So, ENMU officials have focused on ways to up semester credit hours. Even that can be difficult, with so much tied to funding.

The university enticed students with customized programs, such as a graduate reading class held last summer. Although the class generated many students, it was dropped because of a lack of funding.

Also at Friday’s meeting:
• Board members approved an inducement agreement with Sovereign Bank, which is issuing a letter of credit covering seven years for ENMU’s housing project. It assures investors the project is financially feasible.
“The bank is willing to do a seven-year letter of credit on the main campus because we’re a four-year institution and they are comfortable with our housing situation,” said Scott Smart, vice president of business affairs.

• The board of regents approved the 2007-2008 budget for restricted and non-restricted funds.

The budget estimates tuition will increase by 3 percent and enrollment will stay flat. Funding from the state of New Mexico is projected to increase $800,000 as a result of formula workload and $881,000 for compensation.