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Former NMSU administration addresses alleged misstatements at Board of Regents Meeting

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Former NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers.

Former NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers.

Cassidy Kuester

Cassidy Kuester

Former NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers.

From the email of Former Chancellor Garrey Carruthers, Provost Dan Howard and Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Bernadette Montoya.

Please see the attached which is a clarification and response to concerns that were voiced at the Regents meeting on September 5, 2018.  We thought a clarification was in order because of a number of misstatements and misunderstanding were presented at that meeting:  

 

At yesterday’s (September 5, 2018) Board of Regents meeting, the Regents expressed their dismay at the increased cost of the new scholarship program for incoming students at NMSU and claimed that they had not been properly consulted about the program, nor warned of its increased cost by the prior administration of the university.

Although we are supportive of the university and the new administration, it is a disservice to all when facts are twisted or simply ignored, and it is in that spirit of ensuring that the public is fully informed that we offer the following clarification.

First, the Regents expressed concern that they had not been adequately consulted about the implementation of the new scholarship program at NMSU. While it is true that the new scholarship program was implemented without Regents approval, this was a management issue, not a policy issue and therefore did not require Regent approval.

Nevertheless, on July 31, 2017, the program was presented to the Regents during the Strategic Planning Retreat held at the NMSU residence. During this presentation, the new methods for awarding scholarships were presented to the Regents, and the Regents were told that the program was having the desired effect, an increase in first-year enrollment at NMSU. Further, they were informed that the new model was so successful in attracting high achieving students that the cost would be higher than anticipated.

So, more than a year ago, the Regents knew that in consultation with an outside consulting firm NMSU had revamped its scholarship programs and that the program was going to be more costly than anticipated, because more high achieving students than predicted were electing to attend NMSU. As one of us, Chancellor Carruthers, noted in subsequent meetings, this is the type of problem most universities would welcome. Keep in mind the winners are the fine students who selected NMSU as their University of choice.

Secondly, the Regents expressed concern that they had not been informed of the increased costs associated with the program. This is simply false. As soon as the Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance realized that the program was over budget in the fall of 2017, he shared this information with the Regents at meetings of the Regents Financial Strategies, Performance and Budget Committee (Regent’s Budget Committee).

Typically the Regents Budget committee would meet 4 to 6 times in the spring to discuss budget priorities and to make a Budget recommendation to the Board of Regents at their May meeting.

For whatever reason, Regents Budget Committee Chair Kari Mitchell did not call any meetings of the Committee after February 2018, hence there were no opportunities to brief the Regents in a public forum regarding the status of the scholarship program.

Nevertheless, a former high official within the Office of Finance and Administration, who was present at the meetings, has confirmed that Regents Mitchell and Hutchinson, the two Regent members of the Budget Committee, were informed in private meetings that the cost overrun for the program would be greater than two million dollars.

The estimate provided to the two Regents was 3.8 million dollars, which is very close to the actual overrun of 4.1 million dollars.

In addition, an estimated overrun of 6.3 million (which was deliberately set high to provide a spending cushion), was part of the budget adjustment request approved by the Regents as part of the consent calendar on May 11, 2018.

We acknowledge that the budget did not receive a lot of scrutiny at this meeting because of the attention devoted to naming a new Chancellor and President, and many important details of the budget could not be reviewed in the short presentation given by the Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance.

It is important to note that changes in the scholarship program, designed to decrease costs, were implemented during the 2017-2018 academic year and that the cost overrun was covered by one-time funds. The university did not go into the red because of the cost overrun.

However, there is no doubt that NMSU now has less flexibility to cover such investments because of the increased cost of the administration of the university and the increased cost of running the Office of the Board of Regents.

The critical point here is that at no time was there an effort to conceal information from the Regents. It is unfortunate that an innovative program that has led to double-digit increases in freshman enrollment, and which has been adjusted over the course of the last year to reduce costs is being cast in a negative light by the Regents.

It is a disservice to the many dedicated staff in Student Affairs and Enrollment Management who worked tirelessly to make the program a success.

The budget process is complex and difficult for some to understand. Nevertheless, we worked hard to be transparent about the budget, and at no time did we withhold information from the Regents.

We encourage the Regents to become more familiar with the budget process, be more diligent in exercising their authorities by having regular and focused Regent’s Budget Committee meetings, and that they commit to studying programs in detail before criticizing them and deciding on their usefulness and fate.

Respectfully yours,
            Garrey Carruthers, Ph.D
            Daniel Howard, Ph.D.
            Bernadette Montoya, Ed.D.
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Former NMSU administration addresses alleged misstatements at Board of Regents Meeting