- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - Facing a continual drop in student enrollment, New Mexico State University regents approved a 2.4 percent tuition increase Monday and a plan to cut $9 million in spending.

Regents voted 4-1 on the increase and a blueprint to reduce staff through attrition and a hiring moratorium that took effect last month. There is no timeline on when the moratorium will end.

The tuition increase translates to an additional $72 per semester for an in-state undergraduate student carrying 12 credit hours.

“Raising tuition is not something that we’re considering lightly,” said Regent Kari Mitchell.

Officials say fall semester enrollment at NMSU has dropped 13 percent over five years.

Last month, UNM regents voted to cut health care benefits for some employees and pursue a plan to offer “selective strategic pricing.”

NMSU also hopes to offset falling enrollment by marketing to students in Mexico and China.

The increased revenue will be used, in part, to fund the final phase of a three-year faculty salary market equity plan for tenured and tenure-track faculty, a program for first-year student advisers aimed at improving retention, additional funding for student scholarships, a student success program and targeted marketing efforts. Those efforts, Carruthers said, were critical in combating declines in enrollment.

Carruthers told the board that to deal with reduced revenue from fewer students, the entire NMSU system - including the four two-year colleges - will reduce expenditures by about $9.1 million during the upcoming fiscal year, with $7.2 million from the Las Cruces campus.

“We’re looking to ‘right-size’ the system,” Carruthers told the regents.

Regents declined to increase student housing rates, but approved a 4 percent increase in meal plans. Regents also approved a $7.50 annual increase in parking rates for faculty and staff, but stripped a proposed increase to student parking rates from the measure before approving it. The university’s special permit rate increased $64 annually.

NMSU’s belt-tightening comes as universities statewide confront falling student enrollment. UNM is facing a $3.6 million shortfall both in the current and coming fiscal years.

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