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Editorial: UNM must reduce this higher cost of higher ed

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It costs the University of New Mexico around $50,000 to get someone through a four-year degree. For various reasons, that cost almost doubles, to $91,000, for those full-time students who spend their entire undergraduate careers at UNM and finish in six years. And it compares to a national average of $69,000 for a six-year bachelor’s degree.

The statistics give literal meaning to the phrase “time is money.”

So while it is welcome news that UNM has increased its six-year graduation rate from 45.5 percent in 2012 to 48.2 percent in 2013, it is important for the university to continue with its reforms geared toward increasing the four-year graduation rate.

Provost Chaouki Abdallah said as much last month, advising that “in order to be able to continue to provide quality higher education for future generations, we need to lower the cost of graduation. If we could match the cost of average U.S. institutions, we would have an additional $60 million available each year.”

That’s $60 million that could be reinvested in faculty, staff, facilities and programs, or used to mitigate cost increases for UNM and its students, while those students would be ready sooner rather than later to put their degrees to work.

Every year.

UNM has instituted mandatory summer remedial courses, made a 15-hour course load more affordable than a 12-hour load, and is in the process of revamping its College of Education to ensure its training translates into classroom readiness and results.

These reforms, combined with completed and proposed upgrades to the K-12 system to ensure grade-level proficiency and college readiness, should make a four-year bachelor’s degree more common – and thus more affordable – than a six or a never.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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