Although the higher education landscape dramatically changed during the 2019-2020 academic year, nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, NMSU as an institution continues to weather the effects of the pandemic with strength and resilience. We continued to make progress on our goals of improving student success and increasing research, and our response to the pandemic brought Aggie dedication and ingenuity to communities all over the state. This end-of-the-year communication, summarizes the state of our university and looks to challenges in the year ahead.
Goal 1: Enhance Student Success
During the 2019-2020 academic year, enrollment was re-envisioned by bringing refreshed technology to recruitment and retention. Student-serving units collaborated to facilitate academic progress, eliminate barriers to success and improve student engagement beyond the classroom. In a year when enrollment across the nation declined, we were steady (see slides 5–13).
Retention and graduation rates increased this year due to the cumulative efforts of the Aggie community, a testament to the energy and good work of faculty and staff.
- Overall, enrollment was stable for the second year in a row. Although headcount dropped slightly by 69 students (-0.5%), student credit hours (SCH) increased by 0.6%.
- First-time freshmen enrollment dropped by 100 students (-0.9%); the National Student Clearinghouse reported yesterday that first-year enrollment at four-year public institutions dropped 8.1% across the nation.
- The pandemic greatly decreased our ability to attract international students.
- We saw notable improvements in retention and graduation.
- First- and second-year retention rates are the highest they have been since at least 2004, at 75.5% and 65.9%, respectively. Third-year retention increased to 55.8%.
- Our four-year graduation rate increased to 27.3% and six-year rate increased to 51.1%. This is the first time a graduation rate has exceeded 50% since at least 2004.
- Pell Eligible students decreased the equity gap as compared to non-Pell Eligible students for four- and six-year graduation rates.
Goal 2: Elevate Research and Creative Activity
NMSU’s research vision is to achieve the highest Carnegie Research Classification of R1 by 2025, and again, our gains this year build on progress from last year. Major priorities are to increase research expenditures and post-doctoral researchers, and to advance the humanities and social sciences.
- Proposal requests, submissions and awards all increased over the previous year by 44%, 17%, and 16%, respectively.
- Factors that influence Carnegie R1 status (see slide 17):
- Total research expenditures grew by almost $6 million.
- Science and engineering research expenditures rose to $105.8 million, although non-science and engineering expenditures remained flat at $1.5 million.
- Post-doctoral and non-faculty researchers increased to 71; humanities and social science doctorates awarded increased to 20.
Goal 3: Amplify Extension and Outreach
Extension and outreach are intrinsic to the education, research and creativity mission of NMSU. The many forms of outreach make it difficult to document, which was an emphasis of Goal 3 this year. As this team develops a mechanism to document outstanding outreach and community engagement activities and their impact, we will also grow in our capacity to collaborate and communicate best practices within our own communities.
Because so many of our efforts lead directly to outreach, extension and service, we were able to positively affect communities around New Mexico throughout the pandemic. Even through difficult times, Aggies continue to value and exemplify service.
Goal 4: Build a Robust System
No goal of NMSU LEADS 2025 can be achieved without progress on improving our university system. Over this academic year, we focused on implementing NMSU LEADS 2025 throughout the system with a strong emphasis on technology and integrating technology-based approaches to improve service and efficiency. This work accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with an ongoing threat to the NMSU community, Aggies responded with good will and selflessly contributed their time, expertise and hard work. In most cases, the progress we made through February was sustained and even grew through the end of the academic year.
We acknowledge the great uncertainty ahead in the 2020-21 academic year. The challenges are many and include:
- Re-imagining the student experience: How do we recruit when schools are not in session? How do we maintain a community for learning when classes and campus activities are largely virtual?
- Research also faces challenges: reduced travel will make field work, conference attendance and our ability to recruit international graduate students more difficult.
- Outreach: What does it mean to engage stakeholders online? While virtual services extend our services to some new audiences, how do we reach others who lack the access to make such a transition?
Our actions throughout this year give me great faith in our ability to solve new challenges, together. This year more than ever, I am deeply and sincerely grateful to the Aggie community for your dedication to NMSU. Throughout the hardships of the pandemic, protests for racial justice and the budget situation, you maintained your focus on serving our students and our communities. Thank you.
I wish you all a restful and happy holiday season, and a healthy 2021.
Be Bold, Be Kind, Be Safe.
Feedback is welcomed at President.Floros@nmsu.edu.