NMSU regents say they were blindsided Wednesday when they learned of a $5.3 million scholarship budget shortfall.
In an effort to boost declining enrollment in recent years, university officials have awarded students an estimated $42 million in scholarships since 2015, a sum that apparently exceeds available scholarship funding by more than $5 million.
According to NMSU officials, the budget deficit is due to increased scholarship spending that went into effect in 2016. NMSU Board of Regents Chairwoman Debra Hicks, who has served on the board since 2015, said Wednesday “[The regents] were not adequately or accurately informed of this 2016 decision.”
In a written statement released Thursday by former NMSU administrators, retired chancellor Garrey Carruthers indicated he informed the regents on numerous occasions the scholarship program was over budget, including in a budget adjustment request approved by the regents during a public meeting on May 11. The statement was signed by Carruthers, retired provost Dan Howard and former vice president of student affairs Bernadette Montoya.
Hicks denied Carruthers informed the board of the potential cost overruns. “It is unfortunate that the former Chancellor feels compelled to continue his misrepresentation of the facts,” Hicks wrote in a statement issued to the Las Cruces Sun-News. “This budget information is all in the public record, both in writing and in video. At no time during the last two budgets did the former administration disclose the full financial impact of this scholarship program.”
It remains to be seen how this budget shortfall along with a potential reduction in future scholarship awards will affect student enrollment moving forward. Current NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu and President John Floros both indicated this week they will honor scholarships already awarded, but that the money to pay for these scholarships will have to come from the NMSU general fund.
Kokopelli will bring you more on this story as additional information becomes available.