State should look at adapting funding method

— Albuquerque Journal

There are differences between universities that are research institutions and higher education institutions with other missions. All are valuable endeavors, but the costs are likely to vary.

University of New Mexico President Bob Frank is urging separate state funding formulas that take those differences into account.

Frank wants research universities — New Mexico has three, UNM, New Mexico State and New Mexico Tech — to be treated differently than New Mexico’s other traditional four-year universities and two-year community colleges, including the state’s largest higher ed institution by enrollment — Central New Mexico Community College.

CNM President Kathie Winograd isn’t so hot on Frank’s proposal. She thinks the institutions should be working together, not competing for funds.

And the institutions should — and do to various degrees — cooperate on programming, share resources to eliminate costly duplication and coordinate efforts to move students seamlessly and with less cost through two-year programs and into upper level classes at the universities.

That said, as UNM works to raise the bar and the university’s standing nationally, it’s a reality that attracting top faculty and support staff to support a research mission is essential.

And costly.

On the plus side, the better the faculty and the more ground-breaking research that is done, the more likely UNM has of attracting private and public money via grants and donations.

Last year the state started using a new formula that includes student achievement to determine funding. It is still being tweaked, and the state Higher Education Department apparently is open to considering Frank’s proposal.

It makes sense to include factors in the system that recognize differences and costs that come into play for the institutions to meet their missions. And this should not be a zero sum game in which any benefit to UNM comes out of another school’s funding.

The state should give serious consideration to the idea of tailoring funding formulas to the realistic cost of an institution’s mission.