ENMU president: Low rank no surprise

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

Eastern New Mexico University President Steven Gamble says New Mexico’s institutions ranking at the bottom of national educational surveys and studies is nothing new.

In the Leaders and Laggards report issued in early July by the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, a state-by-state report card on public post-secondary education, New Mexico institutions straggled behind other states’ institutions in areas of student success, transparency and cost-effectiveness.

“It wasn’t a surprise, we’re always down near the bottom,” Gamble said.

But Gamble chooses to focus on improvement for ENMU with hopes to raise the school’s completion rate, the number of freshmen who begin at an institution and finish within six years, which is currently at 31 percent.

“Our goal is to get to 40 percent,” Gamble said. “We would like to meet it by the end of this decade.”

Clovis Community College President Becky Rowley declined to comment Wednesday because she had not read the report.

According to the report:

  • New Mexico’s four-year institutions fell in the bottom 10 in retention rate, completion rate, and credentials produced per 100 full-time equivalent undergraduates. New Mexico’s two-year institutions scored in the bottom third in those same metrics as well as the percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell Grants.
  • Four-year state and local funding per completion is $82,653, almost double the national median of $41,198, ranking in the bottom five states. For two-year institutions, both cost per completion $67,621, and state and local funding per completion $61,433 rank in the bottom third of all states.
  • The median wage of a New Mexico bachelor’s degree holder is approximately $16,300 or 55 percent more than the median wage of a high school graduate. The median wage of an associate’s degree holder is approximately $7,500 or 26 percent more than the median wage of a high school graduate.
  • New Mexico institutions also ranked low in the category of transparency and accountability because the state does not track graduate performance in the labor market, but institutions do measure general education learning outcomes.

Gamble says it’s a continuous goal for ENMU to raise its retention and completion rates.

The school’s retention rate is at 62 percent, meaning 62 out of every 100 freshmen come back for their sophomore year, according to Gamble.

“Neither of (the school’s retention and completion rates) are where we want them to be,” Gamble said. “We keep working with students individually in order to retain them.”

Gamble says hiring the best professors, staff and offering a wide variety of developmental courses to bring students up to college level if they’re not up to college level when they enroll, are some of the school’s strategies to improve those numbers.

“We graduated about 835 students last year. Of that total, there were less than 200 that counted in any kind of retention or graduation rate,” Gamble said. “In other words we had 600 students who weren’t counted by the federal government.”

Gamble says the reason why that group wasn’t accounted for is because the students either did not finish in six years or were transfer students.

“I’m not quarreling with this report card at all, they compared all states against the same criteria,” Gamble said. “But any of the problems we have are not because a lack of effort. Any money we get, we’re putting into student success. That’s our mission is to make our students successful. That’s where we put our efforts, that’s where we put our money.”

New Mexico institutions did, however, receive a C in regard to meeting labor market demand and Gamble says ENMU produces a large amount of teachers and business administration majors who are the most likely to get jobs in their field.

In the 2011-2012 school year, Gamble says ENMU graduated 215 education majors and 85 business administration majors.

“It’s supply and demand,” Gamble said. “There are some programs that there just aren’t jobs in. There are some where a lot of jobs are to be had. A good teacher will always find a job.”

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