Are Higher Ed Mission Statements Mere Window Dressing in New Mexico?

(Albuquerque) Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently made headlines around the country when he argued that institutes of higher education in his state of Florida should prioritize funding for the study of science and technology in the his state’s institutes of higher education.

Said Scott, “If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education then I’m going to take money to create jobs…so I want the money to go to a degree where people can get jobs in this state. Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”

One may agree or disagree with Scott’s statement, but prioritization of limited resources is essential. In order to better understand how those resources should be allocated in higher education in New Mexico, the Rio Grande Foundation undertook an effort to survey members of the boards of regents of the state’s six public senior universities on their views of their schools’ mission statements. Unfortunately, poor returns – only 26.7% of the regents responded – seem to indicate that many of the people responsible for leading these institutes do not take their mission statements seriously.

Said Pat Leonard an adjunct fellow with the Foundation and the lead author of the new Rio Grande Foundation report “Are Mission Statements Mere Window Dressing in New Mexico?,” “The regents are political appointees charged with the guidance of New Mexico’s public universities. As such, we expected far more enthusiastic participation and willingness to share views on their institutes’ mission statements. Unfortunately, this was not the case.”

Rio Grande Foundation president and co-author of the report noted that, “Without a clearly-stated mission, policymakers are left to judge for themselves whether New Mexico’s higher education institutions are achieving their goals or not. In times of constrained budgets, it is more important than ever to have a clear understanding of what these schools are attempting to achieve.”

The full report is available online here.

A sample survey containing the questions that were sent to each regent can be found here.

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4 Replies to “Are Higher Ed Mission Statements Mere Window Dressing in New Mexico?”

  1. I have a goal for the three major universities in NM, which are UNM, NMSU and NM Tech.


    If high school grads who apply are not qualified, then do not accept them. Let them spend a year or more at the Junior Colleges, or EMU or WMU to see if they can do college work.

    Further, these unprepared students may work harder in high school to make sure that they can do college work.

    1. George,

      Your suggestion makes a lot of sence…Unless you’re one of those colleges, or program instructors.

      I believe that these employment agencies receive payment for remedial courses offered/required, as well as for similar courses for “college success”. They don’t necessarily need to pay the full cost of a department head to instruct them, which would certainly provide for an incentive along the lines of “the more the merrier”, when it comes to the number of students that can be required to take them.

      Depending on the “Mission”, the incentive may actually be to qualify more students for remedial course work, and text books, expand the program and its staff, and change-out the text book as often as the next version can be re-written and re-profited from. If it’s about expanding services, and the resulting revenue, then the schools’ arguement will be for more remedian course offerings. However, offering a bachelor’s degree program in computer science is an altogether different matter, as some schools may actually be scaling these programs back.

      Perhaps there’s also an incentive for the student to follow an easier degree program, with less math and science course work involved. To the student, the comparative degree plans’ courses have the same cost, but to the school, different degree plan offerings may actually generate comparatively greater revenues, relative to the cost to provide them.

  2. Good article and very important topic.

    I think the poor response rate reflects the biggest problem in New Mexico higher education: the poor organization of its governance.

    The local boards need to be abolished or converted into advisory boards. The state Council also needs to be abolished and transformed into a state governing board that has the authority and power to hire/fire/compensate the CEOs, set budgets and tuition rates, and approval/review/discontinue academic programs. It would also be important for a state level board to have authority for personnel policies and to set admission standards and requirements for preparation to attend a state university. Optimally, the community and technical colleges should come under the same state board.

    Until New Mexico is willing to transform the governance of its higher education system, the problems of finance, quality and student preparation are likely to continue unabated.

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