In today’s Journal, the paper’s first-rate UNM beat reporter, Martin Salazar, has a story ($ sub. req.) showing that for the first time CNM — Central New Mexico Community College — has become the state’s largest higher education institution, surpassing UNM’s enrollment by 172 students.

After I read Martin’s story, two people came to mind, each retired from UNM after long and distinguished careers — David Stuart, former Associate Provost for Academic Affairs; and his wife, Cindy Stuart, former Director of Admissions.

I was curious to know their thoughts on the notion that CNM had surpassed UNM in student enrollment.

Here’s what David Stuart had to say:

“What it means to me is that CNM is meeting community needs, being efficient, being practical, being inexpensive — in other words, CNM is doing all the things UNM isn’t doing right now,” he said.

He elaborated a bit: “Even though it’s (CNM) not the same kind of institution, it’s meeting a lot of basic educational and community needs and it’s doing it very, very well.

“I don’t know why UNM can’t do that. If UNM hadn’t gone into the tank with so many high-priced administrative positions and PR campaigns that are sometimes just downright goofy, UNM would still be ahead of CNM. But it’s not. And it’s by its own hand.

“UNM is not offering enough courses to undergraduates; it continues to trim the number of sections offered to undergraduates, so kids are having a harder and harder time getting their basic classes; and I personally know quite a few kids in the coffee shops around campus who take a lot of their required courses at CNM. They’re enrolled at UNM, but they just transfer them in (from CNM) because it’s so much cheaper.”

His wife, Cindy, said: “I was on the phone with a UNM senior tenured research faculty member when all of a sudden he said: `Oh, my God, what are they are trying to do? Turn this (UNM) into a teaching university?’ I was stunned. I had no response. He wasn’t joking. He meant it.”

David Stuart then concluded the conversation: “This is a big story and it’s not a sign of the economic times. It’s a sign of the hubris times at UNM. UNM is behaving like General Motors: “This is what we think you should have and you’re going to buy it.”

“It doesn’t matter that it’s not needed or outmoded. UNM has a tin ear to buyer preferences, which is to say, student preferences.

“UNM says to its students: “You’ll take what we give to you,” he said.