LAS CRUCES, N.M. (CBS4) — A policy change that was intended to help enroll more students at New Mexico Sate University is now hurting the entire campus.
On Wednesday, members of the NMSU Board of Regents were appalled to find out that the university was giving out too many scholarships that weren’t adequately accounted for.
Now, NMSU leaders will be forced to make some adjustments to try to balance the budget.
“How do we not at any point in the last couple years not stop and say, 'Hey, we’re allocating more than we have?’ I know I’m preaching to the choir at this point,” Regent, Jerean Hutchinson said.
Board Chairwoman Debra Hicks said in March that there was a policy change to award student scholarships sooner.
That same month, NMSU hired a consulting company to help assess the budget.
During a financial audit, it was found that the university was issuing more scholarships to help increase student enrollment without fully informing the board how much money was being spent.
“We had an enrollment team, a recruiting team, that was working over here and you have finances working over here and all of a sudden we’re hitting ourselves with a $5 million, $3.5 million deficit that these people weren’t talking about,” Hicks said.
In 2015, NMSU awarded $8.8 million in scholarships, and that number steadily increased each year.
There was $9.3 million awarded in 2016, $9.5 million in 2017, and this year, $14.8 million has been awarded for scholarships.
Initially the board members said they were told by financial strategist in March that the deficit would be 2 million but found out Wednesday it was closer to $5 million.
“We’ve begin to fully appreciate and realize what the budget challenges are. Some of those have been exasperated by the fact that our scholarships' burden on our overall budget is greater than what we had anticipated,” NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu said.
Students at NMSU who are on scholarships tell CBS4 they worry they won’t receive the same amount of money next year.
“When students don’t understand what’s going to be happening to them, their plans possibly go down the toilet if they can’t afford to come to the university,” NMSU student Joshua Medina said.
“As far as enrollment, well, it’s obvious there’s going to be less students with scholarships. That’s just gonna be a fact,” NMSU student David Vasquez said.
Both the president and chancellor said they will honor all of the scholarships offered to students but said they money will come from NMSU’s general funds, which could have an impact on student enrollment.