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Helping Students Achieve Their Dreams, in Record Numbers

CNM’s Determined Efforts to Help More Students Reach Graduation Lifts Up Students and Community

Dec 04, 2017

After the Great Recession slammed into New Mexico and took a harsh toll on individuals, families and the economy, Central New Mexico Community College rallied to help the cause for a comeback. As the state’s largest higher education institution in terms of undergraduate students, CNM knew it could help improve lives and the regional economy by finding ways to help more students persevere and become college graduates.

According to the 2010 Census, 32 percent of New Mexicans have an associate degree or higher, ranking the state 40th in higher education attainment. These stats are eye-balled by businesses and industries across the country when new locations or areas for growth are being considered. CNM made a commitment back then to make a difference in the number of students who reached graduation – for the students, their families, our community and our economy.

CNM has been coming through, in a big-time way. In the most recent U.S. Department of Education statistics available (2014-15 academic year), CNM ranks No. 1 in the country among 1,100-plus community colleges for the number of graduation awards (associate degrees and certificates) earned by both Hispanics (3,617) and Native Americans (600). CNM also ranks No. 2 in the nation for the total number of associate degrees and certificates awarded (8,299).

CNM didn’t rest on the success of 2014-15. Far from it. In 2016-17, 9,075 students graduated with 13,778 graduation awards, both of which eclipsed previous CNM records.

"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 addition to skilling up the workforce and making central New Mexico more appealing for growing businesses and industries, college graduates have prolific social impacts on a community. Did you know:

  • CNM graduates are less likely to use public benefits than somebody who only completes high school.
  • CNM grads are more likely to vote and volunteer.
  • CNM grads are more likely to be in better health.
  • Children of CNM grads are more likely to excel in pre-school.
  • The household income of a CNM grad is 40 percent higher on average than somebody who only completes high school.
  • 78 percent of CNM grads have no student loan debt, which is 16 percent better than the national average.

The benefits from increasing the number of college graduates in a community are obvious, and endless. And desperately needed in New Mexico. By 2020, it’s estimated that 62 percent of jobs will require some level of higher education credentials. That’s another big reason CNM is stepping up its game.

CNM began escalating its efforts on the graduation front in 2011, when the college established the groundbreaking “Connect Services” student support model. It provides students with a one-stop location at every campus to access all kinds of services, including Academic Coaches, financial coaching, on-site access to public benefits screenings, access to scholarship applications, stress management and study skills workshops, access to legal services, referrals to services in the community for needs like childcare and housing, as well as access to all of the traditional student support services. The easy access support helps students stay in school, persevere and graduate.

Soon after launching Connect Services, students reaching graduation and the number of CNM graduates transferring to universities to pursue bachelor’s degrees began to rise significantly. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), which represents more than 1,100 community colleges nationwide, took notice. The AACC bestowed CNM with the prestigious and national “Student Success Award” in 2013 for its fast-rising graduation numbers and its innovative Connect Services model, which has been emulated at community colleges around the country.

According to the AACC, the Student Success Award "recognizes a community college that has demonstrated, through evidence, a sustained commitment to, and proactively advanced, the cause of student success."

Connect Services was just the beginning of a united college-wide movement focused on increasing the number of students reaching graduation. Here are some more of CNM’s recent efforts that have helped more students reach the life-changing achievement of becoming a college graduate:

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. 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.

Eliminating Credit Creep

In recent years, CNM has been evaluating every major to “right-size” the credit requirements. For associate degrees, CNM has been shedding unnecessary course requirements to keep associate degree requirements to 60 credit hours whenever possible. Due to accreditation requirements, some programs require more than 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. Students are also notified when they’re within a few classes of graduating to help keep them motivated.

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 the support they need.

Creation of More Specific Associate Degrees

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 Geology. Providing more specific associate degree options helps to better engage students interested in those specific fields. The degrees also 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 universities, 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.

CNM Eliminated Late Enrollment

Five 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.