FIRST for Students With a Criminal Record

Don't give up on your education because of a criminal record. Whether it's a felony or misdemeanor, Formerly Incarcerated Students' Reintegration Success Team (FIRST) welcomes you as a student.

FIRST for Success

FIRST is an interdivisional, interdisciplinary, resource-centered team and program for qualifying students geared toward student and community success.

From incarceration to graduation, CNM faculty, staff, and students are focused on helping New Mexico residents and current students who have a criminal record successfully navigate basic through post-secondary education.

If you or someone you know has a criminal record—with or without convictions—and wants to finish a high school or college education, CNM’s FIRST program can put you on the path to receiving a diploma, certificate or license.

FIRST understands the fears, misinformation, and many obstacles that our students with criminal records face when thinking about finishing their education. We have resources, connections with community partners, and information that can help you achieve your educational goals.

link to bureau of justice imprisonment statistics
What Data Shows

  • One in every 30 people in the U.S. are under criminal supervisionthat's almost seven million people in jail or prison, on parole or probation, or serving alternative sentences. 
  • Countless individuals who haven't been in jail or prison can still have a criminal record.
  • You can have a criminal record without being a convicted felon. 
  • Low levels of education can limit your job opportunities and paycheck.
  • Low levels of education and a criminal record can make getting a job seem impossible. 

If you have a criminal record we encourage you to consider educating yourself at CNM. With 200+ associate degrees, certificates, and training programs—including the High School Equivalency (HSE) program—your options are endless. 

Is CNM Right for You?

Federal Student Aid with a Criminal History

Having a criminal record will not necessarily make you ineligible for student aid. Learn about your options.

Central New Mexico Community College is not new to teaching students with a criminal record. If you are wondering if CNM is right for you, ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. Do you want to have a better job, maybe a good career or your own business?
  2. Are you worried about keeping up with school, your job, your family and the conditions of your release?
  3. Have you been told that college is too expensive?
  4. Are you afraid that other students, teachers or people who work at a college will judge you unfairly because of your past?
  5. Are you worried that you don't have the proper education or background to attend college?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then give CNM, and yourself, a chance. 

We are New Mexico's premier community college, and we welcome you—regardless of a criminal record or past legal troubles—as one of our students. Do not let your past stop you from becoming who you want to be and where you want to be in life. 

Your Academic Coach

Offender Re-Entry Resources

Consult CNM's guide of community resources for information on re-entry, as well as housing, transportation, treatment centers, legal assistance and more.

At CNM we have academic coaches to help guide students (choosing majors and classes; understanding CNM procedures), and we have an academic coach, Shamayne Hernandez, to help guide you in your education and career pathways.

CNM understands that navigating the conditions of probation/parole can be challenging. Shamayne can help if you need support communicating with your instructor about specific court-mandated requirements of your probation/parole (that may impact your learning), or communicating to your probation/parole supervisor about scheduling needs you have for your classes (i.e., additional time at CNM campuses to access tutoring, computer lab services, libraries, etc.). 

Please contact Shamayne Hernandez (; 224-4000, ext. 52826) to help guide you.

CNM Student Success Stories

We are proud of our students and would like to share their stories. These are the stories of those with criminal records who have persisted and excelled at CNM.

pictures of CNM students: jessica bower, aaron widman, rebecca martinez, leroy romero

(from left: Jessica Bower, Aaron Widman, Rebecca Martinez, Leroy Romero)

As demonstrated in these stories, you can start a new chapter in your life. A degree or certificate is within reach, and at CNM, we're here to make sure that happens. Contact us with any questions, use the related links/resources on this page for more information or apply now.

Apply to CNM