ICYMI: Editorial: ABQ Journal Editorial: Taxpayers win with higher ed recruiting fix

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The Albuquerque Journal
By: The Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board
December 28, 2013


Here’s a reality check for the education status quo: in college, everybody doesn’t get a ribbon.

That’s as it should be – though some disagree, at some point in life you should actually have to work for what you get. And it’s a key reason Gov. Susana Martinez’s proposed legislation to award $7.5 million in competitive grants to get colleges to recruit great professors, scientists and researchers – most likely in key areas such as science, engineering, health and mathematics – is a better game plan than doling out the extra money on a formula.

Last legislative session there was a proposal to allocate $20 million into a little-used fund for the same purpose, but to parcel it out to institutions of higher education based on an arcane formula. In other words, everybody got a ribbon, courtesy of New Mexico taxpayers.

Martinez line-item vetoed that proposal, proposing instead a version that requires colleges and universities to put some thought into what they need and who’s out there to supply it.

While details have yet to be worked out on a committee of top-ranking state officials that would make the funding decisions, University of New Mexico President Bob Frank and New Mexico Tech President Dan Lopez are already on board. Republican Reps. Larry Larrañaga of Albuquerque and Don Tripp of Socorro are ready to sponsor the component that changes how the money is awarded. And Legislative Finance Committee Chairman Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe, approves the concept of more money for key higher ed hiring and says “we’re prepared to take a look at whatever the governor proposes.”

When the 2014 Legislature convenes Jan. 21, it should give a hard look at the proposal to have New Mexico’s colleges and universities put a little skin in the game and compete for recruiting funds. If anything, lawmakers could consider adding to the total available.

Because under this system New Mexico taxpayers finally get the ribbon.