Special Reports

UTEP and NMSU: A financial divide


EL PASO, Texas - The University of Texas El Paso and New Mexico State University, separated by a state line and a 40-minute drive down I-10, are on two very different paths.

A decade ago, the enrollment rate at both universities was nearly identical. Now, one university is thriving, while the other is clearly struggling to make ends meet.

"We're doing a great deal of damage to our community," NMSU president Garrey Carruthers said in a recent interview with ABC-7.

UTEP Vice President Richard Adauto is confident in the direction his university is heading. "I think we are doing very well," he said, "We have about a half-billion-dollar budget."

Adauto said UTEP has nearly doubled its budget within the last 10 years. The current operating budget sits at about $471 million with tuition and fees contributing 33 percent of the budget. 24 percent comes from state funds while endowments supply nearly six percent. 

In Las Cruces, there are some stark differences. NMSU's operating budget is $486 million, which is higher than UTEP's.

10 percent of the budget comes from tuition and fees, about 34 percent comes from state funding and only about four percent comes from endowments. However, with the state of New Mexico imposing cuts, NMSU is taking action by slashing positions and programs.

In 2016, the NMSU equestrian team was cut because Carruthers said the university could not afford it.

"My contract was (not) up till the end of this season, so I think they would have certainly honored that had the team been reinstated for next year," NMSU equestrian coach Robin Walters said.

Walters is among 30 employees who will be losing their jobs this year and the school is leaving about 90 vacant positions open, including professors, assistant professors and administrative assistants.

Over the last five years, NMSU has terminated 727 positions. Trends show that the numbers for faculty and staff have decreased for the last five school years. Between fall 2012 and fall 2016, faculty and staff numbers dropped by nearly 500 positions.

On the other side of I-10, the Miners have grown over the last five years.

The university has added nearly 200 positions from fall of 2012 to 2016, but that could change.

"We are currently in a hiring freeze, because we are unsure what is going to happen with the state Legislature during this session," Adauto said. Jobs aren't being slashed like they are at NMSU, but the university is being cautious.

"We are being very conservative at the moment and looking at restricting hiring and purchasing and travel, just to make things easier as we enter the next fiscal year," Adauto said.

One major difference between universities is enrollment.

"Enrollment is growing," Adauto said,"We are almost at 24,000." UTEP has grown by nearly 4,000 students over the past ten years, while NMSU has dropped to fewer than 15,000 students. 

"So what do we look to do?" Carruthers said. "We look to extend our markets into Texas and i'll tell you our applications for admissions from El Paso are way up this year about 600 hundred more students from El Paso wanting to come here then we had last year."

With declining enrollment, NMSU hasn't needed to focus on expanding facilities, but UTEP has.

The Miners have spent nearly $500 million on new construction and renovation over the last 20 years. That money is drawn from three main sources: tuition revenue bonds and permanent university funds and grants.

NMSU's Arrowhead Center recently received a $2.5 million  grant from the El Paso based Hunt Family Foundation as part of it's $125-million comprehensive campaign, "Ignite Aggie Discovery."

Carruthers said he started an NMSU transformation project a few years ago, and he hopes it will save the school millions. UTEP, on the other hand, is looking towards future projects, including a new interdisciplinary research building costing $100 million.




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