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Fries touts the positive at HU

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By Don Pace

Highlands University President Jim Fries talked about some of the challenges the university will face because of budget shortfalls after recent action by the state Legislature.

But he said there were also bright spots that people should also take note of.

“When you look across the country, we are very fortunate here in New Mexico that we are not experiencing deeper cuts than we are,” the president said at a recent Board of Regents meeting. “States like Florida, Arizona and California are capping their enrollment, across the nation, from one end to the other. And the extent of their fiscal problems and the impact that that is having on their students is much more dramatic than is the case here. So I am really pleased that Highlands continues to be in a very forward moving posture. This continues to be a very exciting institution despite some of the problems we face.”

Fries said that regardless of some budget problems, the university is in good shape.

“We have a $7 million capital improvement program in place, our enrollment is going up, we have faculty that are making national and international reputations for themselves, and we have students that are being selected to study at places like Princeton. This is a great university that is getting better because of the hard work of the people who are here, the students, faculty, staff, board members, alumni — all of us. You’ve all heard me say, ‘Institutions don’t make things happen, people do,’ and this place is just teeming with people who are making things happen,” Fries said.

Fries used the example of a Highlands professor, Linda LaGrange, who had been asked to testify about war crimes in the Hague.

“That’s the caliber of the staff that we have here at Highlands.” 

He noted others who hold copyrights to high-tech inventions that NASA and other national institutions are interested in.

Bill Taylor, the vice president for finance, agreed with the president’s assessment, telling the regents about some of the completed and future projects at university.

“The construction projects that have been recently completed, that are ongoing, and ones that we have planned amount to almost $34 million,” Taylor said.

Regent Chairman Leveo Sanchez said he would be at the forefront in making sure the university not only succeeded, but would give his heart and soul to making sure Highlands was an institution that was at the cutting edge in offering programs that were second to none in the state or nation.

“I will be aggressive, relentless and what I do will be for Highlands and Las Vegas because they are intertwined. If Highlands prospers, Las Vegas is going to prosper, and if Las Vegas prospers, Highlands prospers,” Sanchez said.