- Associated Press - Sunday, May 4, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The amount of money New Mexico spends per university student has dropped as tuition continues to rise, according to a study released this month.

A report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates per-student spending has declined by more than $4,500 since the start of the recession in 2008, the Santa Fe New Mexican said (http://bit.ly/1lPhZEA) Saturday.

Meanwhile, tuition at four-year universities in the state has climbed more than 25 percent.

Glenn Walters, Gov. Susana Martinez’s deputy cabinet secretary for higher education, said higher education spending has grown by $20 million per year over the past three years. The Martinez administration links state support to colleges’ graduation rates, he said.

“We’ve been on a three-year upward trend,” Walters said. “Will that continue? I would say that depends on the performance of the institutions.”

He said all state programs have been hit with budget cuts, not just higher education.

“Pretty much all state programs were hit proportionally, although there may be certain sectors of the higher education system that feel like they took a harder hit,” Walters said.

The study says the pressures of an economic downturn and increased enrollment in the last six years have forced states to scale back funding and depend on more tuition. Furthermore, state tax revenue fell between 2007 and 2009.

Amber Wallin, a policy analyst with New Mexico Voices for Children, said the cuts have drained the state’s lottery scholarship fund.

“This is not the direction a state with one of the highest poverty rates should be taking - not if we want New Mexicans to have the opportunity to raise their standards of living for themselves and their families,” Wallin said.

The center said in its study that there could be long-term economic consequences nationwide if this type of spending trend continues. The report said taxes and more spending would help in getting out of the hole caused by a recession.

According to the study, the average tuition increase at four-year college in New Mexico is about $1,214 more per year than six years ago. The state ranks as the 15th lowest of all the states in tuition increases. Only Alaska and North Dakota showed more spending on higher education now than before 2008.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com