Rio Rancho Observer
BY: Antonio Sanchez
PUBLISHED: September 4, 2015

If funding falls in line as planned, UNM West could be home to a new health sciences building by 2018, officials say.

The project would also dovetail with local efforts to establish the area as a regional training center for health care jobs.

In a statement shortly after the board’s approval, UNM West CEO Wynn Goering said the building request was the culminated “months of discussions” among UNM’s main campus, Health Sciences Center, UNM West and the Sandoval Regional Medical Center about the best way to address the education and health care needs and opportunities for Rio Rancho and Sandoval County.

Goering, in an interview last week, said the new building would address a number of needs at UNM West and the university’s main campus.

Enrollment at the UNM West campus in Rio Rancho’s City Center has steadily grown the last five years, rising from between 600 and 800 students in the fall and spring semesters of 2010-11 to 1,400 and 1,600 in those semesters this year, he said

Meanwhile, the university has had to turn down applicants due to space constraints on UNM’s main campus and HSC building, he said.

“UNM’s nursing program downtown takes about one out of five qualified applicants because they don’t have room, literally, to do any more,” he said. “I use nursing as an example, but other undergraduate and allied health programs … are really just space constrained on the main campus and we’re trying to find ways as to how can we expand what we do and the second building helps to do that.”

Goering said the project is a main priority for the Health Sciences Center.

“The university has a very limited number of items they put up as priorities in any given year,” he said. “I think there’s three on the main campus and one from HSC. So the fact that this took a priority for UNM represents really significant commitment on their part.”

He said the new building would require state and local funding. He said UNM’s capital outlay request would be for $10 million from state general obligation bonds, with Rio Rancho’s higher education gross receipts tax viewed as the first consideration for the remaining funds, he said.

The state Legislature and the governor would first have to approve including the project in the package of GO bonds to be placed on the general election ballot in November 2016. The project would then be subject to voter approval.

Goering said he and members of the university expect to present a request to tap the higher education GRT at a meeting of the Rio Rancho Governing Body by the end of November.

If the governing body approves the request and voters approve the state bond issue, the new building could be built by 2018, Goering said.

The building would allow the university to not only teach more students but could help with the city’s and county’s push for more health care jobs in the area, he said.

“We look at that situation there and combine that with the tremendous interest in Rio Rancho and Sandoval County with expanding the health care workforce,” he said. “That looks like two things that ought to come together to address a number of needs at once.”

Richard Draper, program manager for the Sandoval County Health Collaborative ,said the UNM regents’ approval is welcome news.

The collaborative was introduced this year as an effort by the county, Sandoval Economic Alliance, UNM West, CNM Rio Rancho and the Sandoval Regional Medical Center to bring more health care jobs and education to the city and county.

Draper said a health sciences building would fall in line with the collaborative’s goal of UNM West and CNM Rio Rancho becoming part of a regional training center for health care jobs.

He said the collaborative could help generate interest by letting students know of the opportunities and positions available in the health care field.

“We represent the educational institutions in the county; we represent the job providers in the county,” he said. “We’re kind of at both sides of the spectrum and we’re well-positioned to help tell that story of what’s available, what are the openings, what kind of training do you need, what kind of certification you need, so that local students have a clear path to careers in this area.”

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