Of branch campuses and athletics

Kate O’Neill of the UNM Taos campus and UNM president David Schmidly had an inane column recently in the Albuquerque Journal. The sum total of their arguments was to argue on behalf of the myriad branch campuses throughout New Mexico. By my count, UNM alone has 10 statewide education centers, main campus, and a campus in Rio Rancho. Other universities such as NMSU and Highlands have their own campuses throughout the state as well.

Basically, the assertion is that New Mexico simply can’t afford to cut down on any of these branch campuses lest we fall behind even further in education. Of course, the “local jobs” argument was thrown in as well for good measure. To say the least, their arguments don’t hold much water in my book as they have no data to back up their arguments.

The Legislative Finance Committee, on the other hand, has an excellent report that is well worth reading on higher education in New Mexico, the fact that we have too many branch campuses and a bloated higher ed system that is not accountable for results. Interestingly enough, New Mexico has among the worst college graduation and first-year retention rates in the nation.

Separately, in a letter to the editor published today, a writer claimed — in a letter that I otherwise agreed with — that UNM’s graduating students have the second-highest debt load in the nation. This is simply not the case as this report from the Project on Student Debt points out. No New Mexico university appears on the report’s “heavy debt” listing although two of them do appear on the listing of “low debt colleges and universities.”