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Highlands regents OK tuition hike

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By Don Pace

As the New Mexico Highlands University Board of Regents prepared to take action on a tuition increase, members were reminded that Highlands still has the lowest tuition fees of any university in the state, even with the rate hike.

“Our overall tuition and fees for students at Highlands has to be one of the lowest in the country; certainly it’s the lowest of any of the four-year institutions in New Mexico. Even compared to Eastern New Mexico University or Western New Mexico University, the cost per year at Highlands is nearly $600 less than students there are paying,” President Jim Fries said.

Fries said one of the main goals with the tuition and fees changes is to bring the cost per credit hour for students at the main campus in line with the cost for students at off-campus locations. He said currently the cost for students at off-campus sites is very low at $110 per credit hour and the cost per credit hour at the main campus in Las Vegas is $104.

Fries said in order to close that gap, students at the main campus would see a 6.8 percent increase or pay $112 per credit hour and tuition and fees. For those at off-campus sites would also pay $112 per credit hour which translates to a 1.8 percent increase.

Officials say Highlands has worked hard over the years to keep tuition rates as low as possible, and in fact, has the lowest tuition and fees for resident undergraduates of any of the 80 truly four-year comprehensive universities in the Southwestern states.

Newly seated Regent Jesus Lopez said everyone hates to see an increase and the administration and the budget and finance committee struggled to come up with the best plan possible. He said the goal is to keep the university in the black.

Chairman Javier Gonzales said raising rates is one of the more difficult things regents have to do.

“One of the things I’ve come to appreciate over the last three years is the value of education from New Mexico Highlands University versus other universities. The fact is we’ve got great faculty and great programs, and what students are paying for their education is far less than if they were going somewhere else,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said one of the goals everyone has is to assure that the university maintains its financial stability.

“Costs are going up for everything from goods and services to the needs of our faculty and the need to retain our faculty — a faculty that for a long time has been paid far less than their peers in similar sized universities,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said it would be unfair to go to New Mexico student sand say they would have to pay more than someone coming from out of state, including international students.

“Their families live in the state and generate the taxes, so it’s an issue of balance and equity,” Gonzales said. He said the university didn’t want to pass tuition increases that would limit opportunities for international students to come to Highlands, but the financial stability of the university is critical.

The regents voted unanimously for the tuition and fees increase recommended by the budget and finance committee and the administration.