Calculating in the Dragon that lives nearby.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote books for his children. Like all great children’s books, lessons were hidden in big adventures and larger than life characters, even if they were short in stature. I am sharing a favorite quote from The Hobbit. I’ve kept it in mind when making big decision in my life and it seems timely now in light of the latest change in Administration at NMSU. “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” I work at NMSU, and as a career decision, I decided I would get one of my degrees in Higher Education Management. I believe you might be interested to know, as I was, how New Mexico’s universities are funded and governed.
Did you know tuition covers less than 20% of the cost of delivering one credit hour of instruction? The other 80% of funding to run a university comes from federal, state and industry research grants and contracts. Alumni giving and philanthropy are also important sources of income. Ticket prices and contracts for televising football and basketball games do not cover the costs of providing these activities.
NMSU is a Land Grant University, a public university. The Land Grant program was established under Abraham Lincoln at the height of the Civil War. His vision was to establish a system of public universities that would unify the country after the Civil War. The benefits of technical superiority turned the tide for the north in the war. The capital needed to industrialize and feed the nation after the war would come from a well educated, technically skilled workforce. We not only needed public universities, but we also had to take the research emerging from the universities and create a system to distribute and integrate this research to benefit the towns and villages.
The Land Grant program is such a system. It is funded by Congress, and administered by the Department of Agriculture. By law, the Federal Government provides for the support of public higher education in each of the states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Law requires the states provide one dollar for every dollar the Federal Government gives to New Mexico under the Land Grant program. Our State Constitution provides the matching funds to NMSU.
The Space Grant program is modeled after the Land Grant program. It is funded by Congress, and administered by NASA. There is a Space Grant program in every state. The Space Grant program does not have matching funds protection provided by the State Constitution in New Mexico, so our matching funds must be raised privately. To raise Space Grant the matching funds, one of the service activities I conduct as the State Director for the Space Grant Program, is the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight.
Universities are governed by a Board of Regents appointed by the Governor. University Presidents are selected by the Board of Regents, and they serve at the pleasure of the Board.
The Land Grant and Space Grant programs provide funding for development of research programs in agricultural and space related disciplines. We fund the development and delivery of classes, lab equipment, scholarships, fellowships and public service programs.
The State of New Mexico’s Land Grant University and lead Space Grant university is New Mexico State University. Both programs are statewide. New Mexico has three Research Universities, NMSU, UNM and NM Tech. These universities are the PhD granting institutions in the state. A PhD is a research degree.
Dan Lopez has been the President of New Mexico Tech since 1994. They are a mighty successful, growing, stable university. NM Tech has thrived under his steady leadership. UNM is breaking in a new President, again. Looks like NMSU is in the same boat, again.
This next quote is directed at our Board of Regents; it is from the Bible, “In the seed is born the fruit.” If you want a university President to have strength in community and alumni relations, look at their numbers. How much money have they raised because of the programs they created? How many supporters gave to programs they created? What innovative relationship building programs did they start? Presidents are not born to leadership, they are developed. What leadership roles have they had in and outside academia if, in fact, that is where you want them to function effectively? The search firms and search committees should not be in the driver’s seat, they are not accountable. You are.