New Mexico is a poor state and one of the lowest-performing on the measures for high
school completion, retention, and graduation used in Measuring Up 2000, although the
state scores relatively well on both college participation and affordability. About 88,000
undergraduate students attend public colleges, with 41% of those enrolled at the 6 four-
year institutions and 59% at the 19 community colleges. The 16 accredited private
institutions enroll approximately 6,000 undergraduate students (National Center for
Public Policy and Higher Education, 2000). Annual tuition and fees average $668 a year
at the community colleges, $2,073 at the four-year institutions. The state spends slightly
over $34 million annually for student aid, the majority ($18 million) for merit-based,
rather than need-based, aid.
New Mexico is an institutionally governed state with a statewide coordinating board and
15 institutional governing boards for the public two- and four-year colleges. Most of New
Mexico’s earliest community colleges were established as “branch” or feeder schools to
four-year institutions, and they were expected to take a 2+2 approach to baccalaureate
transfer. Over the years, additional types of two-year institutions have evolved—
constitutional, independent, branch, and vocational/technical—all of which view transfer
as part of their mission. The state coordinating board, the Commission on Higher
Education, is responsible for policy development, data collection, and analysis. Data
reporting is performed both by the institutions, through university and community college
collaboratives, and by the coordinating board. Budgets are based on a funding formula
that is reviewed and approved by the coordinating board.
The state’s population is expected to grow very slowly in the next 10 years, and unless
high school graduation rates improve, college demand could decline. The state’s three
urban centers are growing, but the rest of the state faces declining enrollments and excess
capacity for higher education. Nonetheless, New Mexico will likely face a large structural
budget deficit for higher education in the next 10 years. Over 30% of school-age children
live in poverty. New Mexico has a sizable Latino population and a large population of
Academic Policies Affecting Transfer
State policy has long emphasized the transfer function for some of the community
colleges, and the transfer function has been a statewide priority since the mid-1980s.
Articulation and transfer legislation enacted in 1995 directed the Commission on Higher
Education to collaborate with the institutions to develop a common transfer core
curriculum of 35 units. This curriculum, mandated for all public institutions, has now
been in place for almost seven years. Receiving institutions are required to accept
additional courses as meeting core requirements, based on seven 64-semester-hour
transfer modules that cover broad discipline areas and that are developed and maintained
by statewide faculty groups.
New Mexico has two types of high school graduation standards—graduation standards
and diploma standards—neither of which is aligned with college admissions standards.
Two of the four-year regional institutions and all the public community colleges maintain
open admission. The state does not have an explicit policy on college remediation,
assessment, or placement, but does regulate the classes that may be offered for college
credit and state support.
Data Collection and Accountability
New Mexico has a student-based tracking system, but a relatively weak statewide
capacity for accountability reporting. A recent report by the Commission on Higher
Education shows roughly half of New Mexico’s bachelor’s degrees were awarded to
transfer students. Of the transfer students, fewer than half had transferred from another
New Mexico public institution; whether from four-year or two-year institutions is not
reported. Over half of the bachelor’s degrees awarded to transfer students were awarded
to students who had transferred from out-of-state colleges. Almost 87% of credits
presented are accepted for transfer. Of the units denied, most were from vocational or
remedial courses outside the transfer curriculum.