Making a case for higher education and NMSU

New Mexico State University offers an excellent education at highly affordable prices, providing a path to social mobility and financial stability for students. This statement about the value of an NMSU degree, and the effect of higher education in general, was widely understood in the past, but it is no longer universally accepted. Hence, it is up to those of us who understand first-hand the power of education to champion it to our families and friends, in our towns and communities, and to communicate it to the public and our elected officials. Education is of paramount importance, it is the mission of NMSU, and we must convince others that it is a powerful and necessary investment in our future.

Confidence in higher education has eroded during the past few decades. There are several reasons for this decline, but in a 2019 analysis by the Pew Research Center, 84% of all adults cited high tuition as the top reason why higher education is headed in the wrong direction. This concern about cost is understandable. States typically reduce support for higher education during recessions (Aug. 25 town hall, Slides 6, 13), and universities increase tuition to make up for the loss of state funds. So, just when families struggle the most to meet their own financial needs, they are asked to fund more of the cost of higher education (Aug. 25 town hall, Slide 5).

College affordability is important everywhere, but even more so in New Mexico, where the median household income ranked the fifth-lowest in the nation in 2018. NMSU’s costs are low compared to other public universities (Aug. 25 town hall, Slides 20, 21), and our average financial aid package completely covers NMSU’s tuition and fees with some amount left over for books, supplies, and other living expenses (Aug. 25 town hall, Slide 22). Our low cost supports our mission and makes an NMSU education more accessible for the people of our state.

Like all prudent investments, a college education is a wise decision over the long term. Unemployment and job growth since the Great Recession demonstrate not just the value of a college education, but its necessity (Aug. 25 town hall, Slides 7, 8). From the start of the Great Recession until November of 2015, the U.S. economy created 11.6 million jobs. About 72% of those jobs were filled by people with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and a whopping 99% were filled by people with at least some college education! During the same time, the U.S. economy lost close to 5 million jobs that were held by people with only a high school diploma. Wages, benefits and access to health care are also better for people who have a college degree (Aug. 25 town hall, Slides 9, 10).

Education is also a wise investment for society. A college education provides the intellectual foundation and skillset with which today’s students will tackle the world’s biggest challenges. At universities, we train minds to think, and this is, perhaps, the most optimistic and sensible investment a society can make. An investment in education tells our students that we have faith in their ability to take on any challenge, from global pandemics to economic crises or racial equality to environmental change. College education is the best investment a society can make.

We all need to help carry this message because even in our challenging environment, we are making progress. We are focused on goals that are strategic and that further our mission of education, research, creativity, outreach, extension and service for and to the people of New Mexico. We need to let everybody know that we believe as much in NMSU as we believe in our students and that higher education benefits us all.

Your comments are always welcome at President.Floros@nmsu.edu.

Be Bold, Be Kind, Be Safe.

Go Aggies!

Note: These comments were adapted from the Aug. 25 town hall and related presentation.


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