Student success is our goal

Although it seems like the semester just started, it is already time to submit early performance grades for students enrolled in 100- and 200-level courses. The window for submitting these grades opened today and closes Tuesday, Oct. 1.

This feedback on academic performance is important for all students. Such information early in the semester allows students to address academic trouble spots. This is especially important for first-year students from New Mexico. Most of them will be seeking the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship, which will save them thousands of dollars on tuition as they earn their college degree.

Last week, Chancellor Arvizu announced in his communication that for the first time in many years, enrollment on the Las Cruces campus posted an increase. The details on the small increase are encouraging: new graduate student enrollment increased significantly, graduate enrollment overall was up for the first time in a decade, and finally, first-year retention for last year’s starting students was 75 percent — the highest first-year retention rate since at least 2003.  While we want this number to be much higher, this is movement in the right direction. Thank you to so many of our staff and faculty who contributed to such an improvement.

There is also good news about graduation rates. Our four-year graduation rate was
26 percent, about the same as the year before, but our five-year graduation rate jumped from 42 percent to 46 percent, and our six-year rate went from 47 percent to 48 percent. Again, this is movement in the right direction.

We talk about enrollment a lot, and it is important. But we need to remember what is behind those numbers. Students come to NMSU to earn a degree, and every increase in retention reflects students getting closer to their goal. Every increase in graduation rates means that more students have succeeded in earning that degree. NMSU LEADS 2025 Goal 1 is Enhance Student Success and Social Mobility, and we make progress toward that goal only when students reach their educational goals.

Related to student success, a newly announced plan from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will cover tuition and fees for students at public colleges and universities in New Mexico. There are many details about this program that will emerge over time, but it is important to note that for an in-state undergraduate for the 2019–2020 academic year, the full cost of attendance at NMSU is $22,972, with only 34 percent ($7,810) of that attributable to tuition and fees. We applaud this step by the governor to cover tuition and fees, but we must continue to seek donors who are willing to help our students cover the remaining cost (about two-thirds) of a college education.

There is also very good news relating to NMSU LEADS 2025 Goal 2: Elevate Research and Creativity. Sincere congratulations go to Dr. Pei Xu and the College of Engineering, as well as members of a team that was awarded a five-year, $100 million grant by the U.S. Department of Energy to create the Energy–Water Desalination Hub. This is a terrific follow up to last week’s announcement that the New Mexico Environment Department is working with NMSU to study the treatment and reuse of waste water from the oil and gas industry. According to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) survey, NMSU’s research expenditures increased last year from $94.5 million to $101.5 million, the first increase in several years. Both of these announcements will help NMSU continue to improve in research and creativity well into the future. Again, thank you to all hardworking and dedicated staff and faculty who contributed to this success.

Go Aggies!

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