Too Many Colleges?

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Lawmakers in New Mexico worry that the state just has too many damn colleges. So many that they’re becoming a drain on the state budget. According to an article by James Monteleone in the Albuquerque Journal:

Lawmakers on Friday blasted the growth of community colleges and branch campuses in the state and threatened to shut some of them down to save money. “We’re going to have to be looking at closing some campuses,” said Legislative Finance Committee vice chairman Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming.

…Lawmakers focused their funding concerns on the 25-plus colleges in the state. Many of them have duplicate programs in the same communities, leading to higher overhead expenses. One example mentioned was social work courses that are taught in Albuquerque at a New Mexico State University center and at a New Mexico Highlands University campus located less than a half-mile apart near Indian School and San Mateo.

It’s rather hard to argue that New Mexico suffers from too much education. Only about 23 percent of New Mexico residents currently have a bachelor’s degree, less than the national average. At the same time, it is entirely possible to try to educate people the wrong way.

According to the article, more tax dollars per capita are paid to colleges in New Mexico than in any other state. About 15 percent ($853 million) of the state’s annual budget goes to higher education.

And the state’s public colleges still aren’t exactly cheap. The state’s flagship public university only ranks in the middle of the country in terms of price relative to median income. What’s going wrong here?

(Thanks to commentator Judy for making me aware of the New Mexico article.) [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer