Marika Reinhold loves to paint large depictions of salmonella-tainted tomatoes and of her 18-year-old, cancer stricken cat, Fritz.
She also loves photographing electrical devices. When Santa Fe Community College and the University of New Mexico announced last September they were launching a Bachelor of Fine Arts program, she enrolled immediately.
Reinhold hardly could have anticipated the logistical maelstrom that lay ahead. Enrollment has been anemic, with only five students currently signed up for the BFA program. As a result, classes have been cancelled, leading to poor morale among students and an uncertain future for the program.
“We are struggling to find students, to get this off its feet,” Reinhold says. “It’s very difficult.”
Representatives from both schools acknowledge the BFA program is suffering.
Bruno Bornet, interim dean of the Fine Arts Department at Santa Fe Community College, says the program began, in part, to accommodate associate degree students who want four-year degrees but not 50-mile commutes to Albuquerque.
“We have some of the finest [art] facilities in the entire state,” Bornet tells SFR. “Why should we not bring the program here?”
John Cornish, director of program operations for UNM’s Extended University Distance Education Programs and Services, says those commute-weary students Bornet described have not materialized.
As a result, the Extended University, which coordinates UNM’s distance education programs, is taking a hard look at the program’s viability. Cornish’s organization is self-supported by satellite campus students’ tuition.
Cornish says 13 students are needed to make an undergraduate class worthwhile for the school. “That number means we’ll pretty much break even,” he says.
Instead, low enrollment numbers led UNM to cancel three of four classes last spring, leaving a sole photography class available for BFA students.
Reinhold took that class, but the lack of other offerings put her in a bind. In order for her to receive financial aid, she had to be a full-time student. So she supplemented the photography class with other courses at the Institute of American Indian Arts. “It’s very tricky,” she says, when “you’re at the beginning of the semester and suddenly classes are being canceled.”
Reinhold’s liaison at UNM, Manager of Enrollment Services Carmen Lujan, points to one factor that may discourage students from applying to the BFA program: money. A three-credit hour course at SFCC costs between
, whereas UNM charges around
The jump in tuition, Lujan says, “is very discouraging,” though there is nothing she or Cornish can do about it.
“It’s not like we’re some sort of a retail business who might initiate a sale,” Cornish says.
The BFA program’s relative anonymity has also been a factor. Word-of-mouth has been the best recruitment tool, according to Cornish.
But SFCC photography instructor Andre Ruesch believes the schools have done too little to promote the program.
“A lack of advertising has been a big problem,” he tells SFR, also noting that Albuquerque students, eligible to enroll on the Santa Fe campus, have yet to materialize.
Nonetheless, Ruesch remains hopeful. “The fine arts faculty here is excited and we’re qualified to teach… the big problem is, people just aren’t aware of it.”
Reinhold concurs. She describes the BFA program as “a grand thing,” adding: “We have this gorgeous campus at the community college…I would expect this campus to be filled with students.”