Some 50 students and a few faculty from the College of Santa Fe sit, waiting for HB 577 to reach the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. As the House debates the myrad issues on its plate students, who trickle in in pairs every few minutes, discuss their options if the committee doesn't approve the bill. Many have already applied to other schools or are currently finishing applications in the midst of trying to save their school.
But what that school will look like is up in the air because the College of Santa Fe is struggling to pay its bills through the end of the semester. With a $3 million deficit school officials have cut back staff hours and are in talks with faculty about how to proceed with the semester. Letters have now gone out to faculty and staff informing them that May 22 will be the last day.
When HB 577 was approved by the House Education Committee SFR spoke with Highland's President Jim Fries, who has been spotted around the Roundhouse today but is not currently waiting with students to learn the school's fate, about how Highlands would take on the current faculty and staff at the College. Though Fries seemed optimistic that Highlands would be able to retain "key faculty" at that time the situation remains bogged down in legislation.
Today's committee hearing was scheduled to begin at 1:30 pm but has been held up by votes on the House floor. Bill sponsor and Appropriations and Finance Committee Deputy Chairman Luciano "Lucky" Varela and committee vice chairman Danice Picraux, who teaches courses at CSF's Albuquerque campus, leans more heavily democratic than the previous committee, though Abuquerque and southern New Mexico seems to be the hard sell for this bill.
If the school were to close the students, staff and faculty are concerned that Santa Fe's economy, which thus far has been less affected than other areas of the country by the economic resession, will take a hit. Many students from out of state attend CSF, bringing money from various parts of the country to Santa Fe and surrounding areas.
SFR spoke with the press contact on the House floor about 4 pm and was told that the committee may reconveine on Sunday morning at 9 am given the length of today's meeting.
SFR regrets that we will be unable to continue coverage of tonights committee hearing as Patricia Sauthoff is also an adjunct faculty memeber at the College of Santa Fe and has a class scheduled for tonight.
Meanwhile, CSF students wait, with the odd sountrack of Bob Marley filling the committee room and lightening the tension that hangs in the air.