Students: Chamber of Commerce is right, New Mexico is failing

By: Jyllian Roach, Managing Editor | Information From:

Liberal Arts major Ty Knight said he was surprised by the information about New Mexico’s higher education released in a recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The study “Leaders & Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary Education” awarded New Mexico’s two-year colleges poor grades, with four-year schools doing only slightly better.

“This is mega-disappoint­ing,” said Knight.

The study looked at four areas for two and four year post-secondary public schools: student access and success; meeting labor market demands; efficiency and cost effectiveness; and transparency and account­ability. Two-year schools in New Mexico received two F’s and two D’s, respectively.

Heidimae Martin said she transferred from CNM to UNM last fall and had trouble in the area of access and success at both schools.

At CNM, Martin was dropped from her classes one summer for money owed, even though she was never noti­fied about the debt, nor was it listed on her class schedule, she said. When she went to the Financial Aid Department, she was informed that she owed the school $19, said Martin.

“I lost my spot in General Chemistry 1 and the lab for it,” said Martin.

Martin said that CNM seems to be ill-informed of schol­arship opportunities for students, but UNM’s staff doesn’t know where its scholarship office is. According to UNM’s web­site, the office should be in the Student Services and Support Center. Martin said she could not find the office, and when she asked other employees in the building, she was told that the office moved, but no one knew to where.

“I want a location where I can chat face-to-face with some­one but I can’t find it on campus,” said Martin.

Knight said that he, too, had problems with success. Only his math class taught him something new, and none of his classes challenged him intellec­tually, he said.

“I felt like I was paying to get a degree which validated what I already knew,” he said.

The numbers in the meet­ing labor market demands cat­egory are very worrying, said English major Skip Van de Slunt.

According to the study, an associate’s degree holder makes approximately $7,500 — that’s 26 percent — more than the average high school graduate. The difference in unemployment between an associate’s holder and a high school graduate is one point. The median income for a bachelor’s graduate is $16,300 — or 55 percent — more than a high school graduate.

“I really like living in New Mexico, but it may be a waste of my time and money to only make $2,000 more than I do right now. That doesn’t mean I am going to stop going to school, but it does mean that I have to be open to the idea of leaving New Mexico when I earn my degree,” said Van de Slunt.

A cost of $67,621 per asso­ciate’s degree is a huge problem, said Travis Pearson, who trans­ferred from CNM to NMSU this summer. Pearson said he felt that much of the problem comes from the rising demand for degrees in jobs that do not actually need higher education.

“There are companies out there that require receptionists to have a B.A. Is it necessary for the job? Absolutely not. Does the company benefit from having a receptionist having a B.A.? Not likely. There are plenty of high school graduates that can do the job very well,” said Pearson.

The survey results for New Mexico were disappointing, said Liberal Arts major Levi Turner. Turner, who is also the president of CNM’s Phi Theta Kappa chap­ter Alpha Upsilon Chi, said that he did not feel the grades entirely represented New Mexico’s situa­tion, he was glad that awareness has been generated about some of the state’s failings.

Turner said he was unsure if transparency and account­ability were much of an issue because many students attend local schools because of availabil­ity rather than academics.

“I enrolled originally because of the convenience CNM and New Mexico offered me,” said Turner.

Obvious flaws in the system, such as the completion rate, are things that CNM could tackle just by changing staff members’ approach to the prob­lem, said Turner. Alpha Upsilon Chi has tried to install a program called Community College Completion Corps on campus, but has had to shelve the project more than once because of lack of support from students and staff, said Turner.

“CNM should actively sup­port student groups that are trying to cultivate these types of programs as opposed to the passive ‘just let us know how we can help’ attitude I usually see,” said Turner.

Van de Slunt said he thought CNM should offer more specific degrees, instead of just sticking to broad ones like Liberal Arts and General studies.

The lack of options in the English program has caused Van de Slunt to consider transferring to UNM without graduating from CNM, he said.

“The English classes offered have nothing to do with rheto­ric writing, which is my goal. The classes they do offer seem to be a waste of my time and money,” he said.

Retention rates could be improved if students felt that CNM took more of an inter­est in individual student suc­cess, said Martin. CNM does not notify a student who makes it onto the Dean’s List, nor are the Financial Aid or Scholarship departments aware of the opportunities available for highly achieving students, said Martin. Martin missed out on many high-achievement scholarships because she didn’t know where to look, and neither did the school, she said.

“There may be a better chance of developing better students if they felt any differ­ence between themselves and an average or near failing stu­dent,” said Martin.

The “Leaders and Laggards” study also rated state policies in the areas of policy environment, online learning innovation and openness to providers. New Mexico was graded C, C and F, respectively.

To view the entire report, visit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at icw.uschamber. com/reportcard.

New Mexico’s public two-year institution report card

New Mexico has 19 community colleges serving nearly 51,000 students annually.

Student Access and Success: F

Retention rates: 55.9%

Completion rates: 11.8%

Percentage of Pell Grant recipients: 32%

Number degrees awarded per every 100 full time students: 13.7

Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness: D

Cost per degree completion: $67,621

State and local funding per degree: $61,433

Meeting Labor Market Demands: F

Wage gap between A.A. and diploma: $7,524

Unemployment gap between A.A. and diploma: 0.04%

Transparency and Accountability: D

Available reports on job market: No

Available reports for student learning outcomes: Yes

New Mexico’s public four-year institution report card

New Mexico has six universities serving 38,000 students annually.

Student Access and Success: D

Retention rates: 72%

Completion rates: 40.3%

Percentage of Pell Grant recipients: 69.7%

Number degrees awarded per every 100 full time students: 17.8

Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness: D

Cost per degree completion: $65,177

State and local funding per degree: $82,653

Meeting Labor Market Demands: C

Wage gap between B.A. and diploma: $16,262

Unemployment gap between B.A. and diploma: 1%

Transparency and Accountability: F

Available reports on job market: No

Available reports for student learning outcomes: Yes

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