House Bill 212, which is remaking New Mexico State University’s Carlsbad branch campus into an independent community college, has been signed into law by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway has announced.
“This was an incredible effort on the part of Rep. Cathrynn Brown, Rep. Jim Townsend, and Senator Gay Kernan, the members of our Higher Education Task Force and the entire community,” Mayor Janway said. “There’s a lot of work left to do, but today is a great day for the future of Carlsbad and for higher education. Thank you to Governor Lujan Grisham and Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez for carefully considering this important issue.”
Community members Craig Stephens and John Heaton were chair and co-chair of the Mayor’s Higher Education Task Force, which has met weekly since August. In December, the task force voted unanimously to recommend pursuing independence from NMSU. Task force members later selected the name “Southeast New Mexico College” for the community college.
In response to this declaration of community interest, Rep. Brown and Rep. Townsend introduced HB 212 and Senator Kernan introduced SB 236, an identical bill on the Senate side. During committee hearings, Carlsbad residents ranging from age 17 to age 80 spoke in support of the bills.
“I could not be more pleased with the outcome,” said Rep. Brown. “While we will always honor New Mexico State University as an excellent institution of higher education, and we are thankful for our many years of alliance with the NMSU system, the coming change will be markedly beneficial. The reorganizing of the Carlsbad branch into an independent community college will allow for a more focused attention to local needs. Students will benefit from expanded course offerings. Faculty and staff will be eligible for more competitive salaries and will receive professional development support. Local employers will have more of a say in how the college undertakes to meet current and future workforce needs. In a nutshell, having governance closer to home will increase responsiveness to community needs and put ‘community’ back into the operation of the community college.”
“I am very pleased that the Governor signed House Bill 212, establishing the opportunity for the Carlsbad Branch of NMSU to become an independent college,” said Sen. Kernan. “The Carlsbad community worked diligently to present the case for independence which will in the end benefit the students and staff at the college. I am confident that this transition will be done in a thoughtful and collegial manner. The success of the Southeast New Mexico College will be dependent upon local community support both now and in the future.”
HB 212 met approval in the House on a 62-7 vote and received the Senate’s seal of approval without dissenting votes, 39-0. Elected officials across the state spoke in favor of the effort, with Senator Jacob Candelaria, for example, saying he was proud to support the bill because of the leadership shown by the community of Carlsbad.
Mayor Janway also thanked the faculty and staff at NMSU-C as well as NMSU itself for assisting with transition efforts. He noted that the efforts of the Higher Education Task Force will continue, but will now be focused on the transition into an independent college.