CNM #1 in Nation to Award Associate Degrees to Native Americans

Sept. 21, 2016 -- Every year, Community College Week reviews U.S. Department of Education data to compile its national list of Top 100 Associate Degree producers. In its just released 2016 Top 100 (which reviews the most current figures available from the 2014-15 academic year), CNM ranks No. 1 among all community colleges and associate degree-granting universities in the country for the number of associate degrees earned by Native Americans, and No. 2 among all community colleges (No. 5 when associate degree-granting universities are included) for associate degrees earned by Hispanics.
September 21, 2016

CNM awarded 333 associate degrees to Native Americans in 2014-15 (an 87 percent increase from 2013-14) and 2,172 to Hispanics (68 percent increase).

CNM ranks No. 6 in the country among all community colleges for overall associate degrees awarded (No. 10 when universities are included). CNM awarded 4,974 associate degrees in 2014-15, which constituted one of the largest percentage increases from the previous year in the country (a 56 percent increase from the 3,179 associate degrees CNM awarded in 2013-14).

CNM also ranked No. 3 among all community colleges for the number of two-year certificates awarded and No. 4 among all community colleges (No. 9 when universities are included) for total associate degrees awarded to minorities.

There are more than 1,100 community colleges nationwide. And there are more than 300 four-year institutions that grant associate degrees. 

“This is great news for everybody in our state,” CNM President Kathie Winograd said. “Every time a student graduates with a degree or certificate, it’s a life-changing achievement that has positive impacts on families, our community and our economy. CNM has been very focused on finding ways to help more of our students persevere and graduate because we know how important an educated workforce is to our state’s economic development and quality of life. These rankings are a clear affirmation that our sustained efforts at CNM are producing great results for our students, our central New Mexico community and our state.”

In regards to the large increase in Native American students graduating, CNM has an active Native American Task Team that engages with the students throughout the year. “Our Native American students are aware of the support services that are more specific to them and they overcome barriers so they can complete their degree or certificate,” said Dee Bluehorse, a member of the Native American Task Team who works in CNM's Financial Aid department. “Graduating is their goal.” 

Some of the factors that have helped more students overall earn degrees and certificates in recent years include:

More Efficient Class Scheduling
CNM has significantly improved class scheduling in ways that help students get the classes they need to graduate at the time they need them. Class scheduling used to be done in isolation for each of the six schools at CNM. Now, it’s a much more centralized process. For the past three years, CNM has been using specialized scheduling software analytics to determine what classes students need in specific majors to progress toward graduation. CNM uses this information each term to determine the Schedule of Classes and to provide the classes students need to reach graduation in the most expedient manner.

Eliminating Credit Creep
In recent years, CNM has been evaluating every major to try to “right-size” the credit requirements. For associate degrees, CNM has been shedding unnecessary course requirements to keep associate degree credit requirements to 60 credit hours whenever possible. Due to accreditation requirements, some programs require more than 60. If there are not accreditation requirements beyond the 60 hours, CNM has been reducing the credit requirement to 60.

Monitoring Student Records to Notify Students When They’ve Earned Graduation Status
CNM has also instituted a practice of monitoring student progress. When a student has completed enough credits to earn an associate degree or certificate, the student is notified of their graduation status. When they’ve earned their degree or certificate, they are automatically awarded. Students are also notified when they are within a few classes of graduating to help keep them motivated.

One-stop Hub for Student Support
In 2011, CNM established an innovative student-support model called Connect Services that has been emulated at other community colleges around the country. Connect Services provides students with a one-stop location at every campus to access all kinds of services, including Academic Coaches, financial coaching and workshops, on-site access to public benefits screenings, access to scholarship applications, stress management and study skills workshops, and referrals to services in the community for things like childcare and housing. The easy-access to services help students stay in school and graduate.

Creation of More Specific Associate Degrees that Transfer to Universities
CNM has debuted more associate degrees in specific areas of study to accommodate students with specific interests. In recent years, CNM has created associate degrees in fields like Psychology, Pre-Law, Physics, Chemistry and Geography, that didn’t exist before. Providing more specific associate degree options helps to better engage students interested in those specific fields. The degrees are also designed to transfer to universities.

More Associate Degrees Transferrable to Universities
In 2011, CNM had 11 student transfer agreements. Today, CNM has 46 student transfer agreements with 10 different four-year institutions, including the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Highlands University, Eastern New Mexico University and Western New Mexico University. The 46 transfer agreements provide transfer pathways for 87 associate degree programs at CNM.

CNM Eliminated Late Enrollment, Which Has Had Positive Effects
Three years ago, CNM eliminated late enrollment. Now, students have to be enrolled in classes by the first day the class meets. Previously, students could enroll and begin a class up to six business days after a class had started. CNM studies showed that students enrolling late in classes did not perform as well as students who were in the class from the first day, which prompted the change.

Early Notification Program
CNM has instituted an early notification program called “Faculty Feedback.” When faculty members notice that a student is struggling, there is a system in place for faculty to connect students with college services and resources that can help the student get back on track and get the support they need to persevere and graduate.

Gains in graduation numbers and the success of the Connect Services model led to CNM winning the national Student Success Award from the American Association of Community Colleges in 2013. The AACC represents more than 1,100 two-year colleges.