UNM student starts petition to lower tuition amid COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As the University of New Mexico students prepare for the fall semester, there are many uncertainties, and because things probably won’t be back to normal some students are asking for a tuition break. UNM is currently a ghost town, but come next month when classes are expected to start, it might not look too different, especially if COVID cases continue to rise.

“The students are in need. We’re going to be receiving so many less resources that a lot of students need, such as tutoring services, and other resources on campus like the LGBTQ plus resource centers and things like that,” said Ava Yelton.

Yelton created a petition to lower the University of New Mexico’s fall 2020 tuition. She said they’ve received little guidance from the university as to what the fall semester will look like, other than it will be a hybrid model, with a majority of classes taught online.

Yelton said some students don’t have access to certain technology and other resources needed for this transition. Other students say if they’re not using classrooms, transportation, wi-fi or other on-campus services, why should they have to pay for it?

Close to 5,000 people have signed the petition.

“A lot of the comments made me really emotional. A lot of students have had to drop out completely because they know they won’t be able to pay their tuition and pay their rent and pay for groceries, and all that you know after three months of unemployment. And so I know a lot of people are on my side. Obviously all students want affordable education, but in a time like this, it is extremely important,” Yelton said.

UNM released the following statement in response to the petition:

We have heard about and understand the financial hardships that students have been facing due to COVID-19, and UNM remains dedicated to making an excellent four-year education accessible to all New Mexicans. We offer generous financial aid to 80% of our students and work hard to ensure that cost is not a barrier to attendance – our continued commitment to the Lobo First Year promise is one example. As state funding levels have declined, we are looking to implement a $30M budget reduction, making existing tuition levels necessary to operation. 

– President Garnett Stokes

Yelton said she’s spoken with the ASUNM President who said tuition is generally set in stone, but also told her there may be some wiggle room with student fees. UNM said as far as enrollment goes, for summer courses the numbers are almost dead even up to three students at 7,036.

For the upcoming fall semester, enrollment is down 5% compared to last year, so far with 17,334 students enrolled. Last year there were 18,274. However, there are still about five weeks until classes are expected to start.

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