Senator wants 'super board of regents'

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By Don Pace

Highlands University President Jim Fries says there are a number of legislative initiatives being proposed that could affect higher education, including replacing boards of regents at state colleges with a single board.

“Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, does plan to submit some form of a bill that would move us toward a Super Board of Regents that would basically replace the individual board of regents at New Mexico universities with a single statewide board of regents, probably with nine to 11 members,” Fries said.

Fries said McSorley met with the Council of University Presidents and indicated the senator would be open to approaching this with some kind of year-long study committee.

“I don’t know what is going to happen with it, but it would be a major change in the landscape of higher education in the state of New Mexico,” Fries said.

Fries said Sen. Tim Keller D-Albuquerque, is again this year proposing an array of bills that would also impact higher education.

“He also met with university presidents, and one of the bills he is anticipating would put the higher education system under the Legislative Education Study Committee, which, to this point, has been focused on public education and not so much higher education,” Fries said.

Fries said the Council of University Presidents made it clear that it was unanimous in not seeing this as a benefit for higher education. He said the senator pledges to look for ways to enhance higher education.

“And I take him at his word for that,” Fries said. “An alternative that he may pursue instead would be to create a legislative committee that would work with higher education, as the LEFC works with public education,” Fries said.

Fries said the issue would probably take a year’s study to resolve.

Fries said Keller is also interested in submitting a bill that would provide a lottery scholarship for graduate students.

“My guess is, given the difficulties and concerns about funding for the lottery scholarship as it’s currently structured, it doesn’t have that much of a chance of going anywhere,” Fries said.