Dear CNM Chronicle,
If you hang around long enough at Central New Mexico Community College, the school’s carefully polished public image will wear thin and expose a core of half-truths and bombast.
The latest revelation surfaced earlier last week when the CNM Chronicle, the independent student newspaper, reported that a biology student, Emily Sarvis, was awarded two degrees and certificate that she knew nothing about. In fact, she only found out about her degrees and certificate when she was asked to complete a post-graduation survey.
Sarvis, by the way, is president of the CNM Executive Council of Students. I’m sure she has heard the same admonition I have as part-time faculty member: Students have to apply to graduate. It’s not automatic.
Sarvis, a biology major, told the Chronicle she did not apply to graduate and wanted to take additional courses in her major before she transferred to the University of New Mexico. However, she is now being denied financial aid to complete her degree because school records indicate she already graduated, according to newspaper.
This does not appear to be an isolated incident. Another CNM student, James Roach, who claims he lacks one math course to complete his degree, found out that he too graduated in May, reported the Albuquerque Journal last Friday.
Hold on because this gets stranger. It seems that the program that granted Sarvis her degrees and certificate is same one that “helped CNM more than double its graduation rates in the past two years, which also helped the school win a prestigious award this year for improving student services,” according to the Journal.
Many long-time CNM students are unaware they have enough credit hours to earn an associate degree and consequently never apply to graduate, so “the program uses software to find students with enough credit hours and automatically gives them degrees,” according to the Journal. A CNM administrator explained this was a “pilot project” that will improve over time, presumably to include students and inform them that the application to graduate may not be necessary.
What makes this revelation potentially more disturbing is that CNM is a lead partner in a collaborative effort called Mission: Graduate, which claims it will produce 60,000 additional two-year, four-year and graduate degrees above and beyond the norm by 2020. By boosting the skills and credentials of the local workforce, the reasoning goes, employers will be more likely expand or relocate their operations to the Albuquerque area. This initiative, which is scheduled to start in August, has the support or the active involvement of Presbyterian Healthcare Services, the United Way, the University of New Mexico, the City of Albuquerque, Albuquerque Public Schools, Rio Rancho Public Schools, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, Intel, Public Service Company of New Mexico, and the Journal.
There was, to my knowledge, no involvement by teaching faculty from any of the partnering institutions in the development of Mission: Graduate. That would be typical of the top-down changes in public education that are driven by the private-sector and masqueraded as reform. Perhaps no faculty members will be required to achieve 60,000 new degrees under this vision, maybe that lofty goal can be reached without any more students, classrooms, or courses. Maybe the results, or most of them, will be churned out by fine-tuned software that cranks out degrees for students without their knowledge or involvement. Now that’s reform.
Seamus O’Sullivan, Ph.D.