The Southeast New Mexico College (SENMC) Board of Trustees met for the first time on Jan. 18 to elect officers, discuss tuition, begin the search for a president and move forward in the transition to an independent college.
SENMC was formerly Carlsbad's branch campus of New Mexico State University, but became an independent community college last year, electing its first board of trustees in the November midterm election.
"Today we are privileged to have this meeting with the first Board of Trustees," said NMSU Carlsbad Interim President Dr. Andrew Nwanne. "It's something we never imagined and we are happy, we are excited to get to this day."
The board elected Ned Elkins from District 5 as Chairman of the Board and Tiffany Frintz from District 3 as board secretary. Sheriff Mark Cage from District 1 nominated Elkins and Sarah Jo Bowman from District 4 nominated Frintz.
The Board of Trustees also voted unanimously to keep tuition costs the same after the transition from New Mexico State University Carlsbad to SENMC, even after taxes increased by roughly 1.5 percent.
Tuition for a full-time student at the college costs about $638 per semester for students within the Carlsbad school district and $1,034 for out-of-district students, according to the NMSU-C website.
Vice President of Business and Finance Karla Volpi said the college expects to exceed its original budget in the coming year but also expects to have $7 million in reserves after collecting tuition in December.
Volpi explained that tuition makes up the majority of the college's budget and is dependent on student enrollment.
Vice president of student services, Juanita Garcia said NMSU-C enrollment reached an all-time high of 1,921 students before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in spring 2020.
By the fall of 2020 enrollment dropped to 1,203 students, then to 1,162 students in spring 2021, according to the NMSU Census Enrollment Reports. By fall 2021 enrollment jumped back up 13 percent to 1,361 students.
Garcia said enrollment went down due to the decline of the oil and gas industry and countrywide layoffs caused by the pandemic. She said the greatest drop was among dual-credit high school students.
The high school dual-credit program went from over 800 students before the pandemic to 416 in fall 2020. Garcia said she expects enrollment to grow to over 600 in the coming semesters.
The board also discussed the process of hiring a president to represent SENMC.
"The presidential search will be one of the most important things you do as a board," said John Heaton who served on the college's local transition task force.
Heaton explained the board would need to come up with the criteria for the position such as education level and experience.
Elkins said the board plans to create a committee made of college staff and community members to begin the recruitment hiring process.
The board also voted to meet twice a month on the first and third Monday of every month at 5 p.m. Elkins said the board will need to meet more often during the beginning process of the transition but will likely change to meeting just once a month as things come into place.
"Getting started, this is not a normal board in the sense that we are really a startup. We are taking this thing from the ground up," Elkins said.
Claudia Silva is a reporter from the UNM Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at email@example.com, by phone at 575-628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.
This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Southeast New Mexico College Board of Trustees meet for first time