University Branches: Competition and Quality?

How does a government monopoly compete against itself? Good question. Perhaps the author of a recent Albuquerque Journal column, Natalie Medina Coggins, has some idea because she asserts that this is the case throughout her article explaining why New Mexico’s higher education system is not only efficient, but could grow.

The assertions made in the article contradict research by the Legislative Finance Committee and the Rio Grande Foundation (to name just two entities that have studied the issue). Medina Coggins takes Sen. John Arthur-Smith to task for pointing out the obvious fact that “duplicate courses are too expensive and risk diluting the state’s best academic programs.”

Medina Coggins cites her husband’s experiences as a professor of social work as “proof” that New Mexico couldn’t possibly cut spending on higher ed, but makes no specific, substantive arguments. After all, this would be tough to do as it would be quite difficult to “prove” that taxpayers benefit from the millions of dollars annually spent to produce new masters in social work and other areas of interest that may or may not provide a real return to society.

While an educated society is important, taxpayer subsidies for higher education clearly benefit middle and upper-income citizens at the expense of families whose children do not obtain a college degree (more than 75% of the population). Like all expenditures of taxpayer money in tough economic times, higher ed spending needs analysis and transparency. Contrary to Medina Coggins’ assertions, Sen. Smith and Rep. Saavedra should be applauded for taking a closer look at the issue.

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7 Replies to “University Branches: Competition and Quality?”

  1. To repeat a story that has been referenced many times over the years, Arizona has a population of 6.6 million and three state universities for a ratio of one university per 2.2 million population. New Mexico, with a population of two million, has SIX state universities, for a ratio of one university per 333,000 population. In other words, NM has a state university ratio that is 6.6 times higher than AZ.

    Need any more proof that the primary purpose of government in NM is to provide employment?

  2. The main problem is the numerous branch campuses. Albuquerque already has UNM why do we need an NMSU branch campus here? If you want to go to NMSU, move to Las Cruces. Most college students move somewhere to pursue their education, we don’t need a 4 year university in every city over 30,000 people in this state. I realize that means people in some rural areas will have to move elsewhere to attend college but that’s the way it is everywhere else.

  3. First, no one should take Ms. Coggins’s brief remarks seriously. I admire her for testifying to her husband’s expertise and commitment; I disregard all else as special-interest pleading.

    Second, no one should think that the language of “government monopoly” and of competition is appropriate to the discussion. There are a very few colleges in the state, and the concept of competition applied to higher education is for students, sports, not money (or profits).

    Third, the number of branch campuses would be less an issue if the branch campuses were successful–or more “successful”– educational institutions.

    As I have written repeatedly and variously, the higher education system in New Mexico is inefficient with both education and students. Some of those elaborations may be found on at; search my name and take your pick.

  4. Those on this blog unaware of Mr. Hays should checkout his frequent columns that invariably come around to the subject of education. I always learn something from his columns, though some day I’m afraid I will have to deconstruct him on an ideological basis. (Just kidding, Michael!)

  5. Oops. I meant to say that there are very few “private” colleges in the state.

    Thomas, no kidding, we should get together and chew the fat. Get my email from Paul and get in touch.

  6. Hate to revive an old thread, but feel it’s worth noting:

    Ms. Medina Coggins quickly ran off to Canada to live happily ever after, yet still manages to make silly comments on our local news sites suggesting that we’d be in so much better shape if we’d just elected another Democrat as governor, instead of a “teabagging Tejana.”

    I challenge any of you to ever take her seriously again.

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