The Board of Regents at New Mexico Highlands University has approved plans to take control of the financially burdened College of Santa Fe (CSF), a financially troubled Catholic institution. The plans were lamented by the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), a group dedicated to strengthening Catholic identity in higher education.
The College of Santa Fe was established in 1859 by the Lasallian Brothers as a Catholic college. However, under the plan approved by Highlands’ regents the school will purchase and redistribute the College of Santa Fe’s land, refinance its $35 million debt and collaborate with a nearby community college.
The Highlands regents plan to incorporate Santa Fe’s emphasis on arts education into its primary focus on business and social work.
“In recent decades, the College of Santa Fe has considerably moved away from a distinctive Catholic identity, even as it declined financially,” the CNS maintained.
“Catholic institutions that wish to remain competitive in a declining economy must offer students a genuine Catholic identity—something unique and valuable,” CNS President Patrick Reilly commented in a statement. “Let this be a wake-up call to every Catholic college and university interested only in religious branding.”
The New Mexico State Legislature and the Higher Learning Commission must both approve the merger. Some lawmakers reportedly are worried that the state may not be able to afford another college.