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Editorial: NMSU budget rightly incentivizes graduation

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New Mexico State University has taken a page from UNM’s last budget, financing faculty pay raises by linking students’ wallets to full course loads that will get them graduated in four years.

That’s smart – graduating students on time should be the real bottom line of every university.

UNM set that tone last April, when it scrapped the block model where students taking 12 to 18 credit hours a semester were considered full time and paid a set amount in tuition and fees. It moved to a system in which students taking fewer than 15 credit hours paid a higher rate than those taking 15 hours or more, in great part because just 15 percent of UNM students were graduating in four years and 46 percent in six.

At New Mexico State, just 43 percent of students graduate within six years.

Under the new system NMSU students with lighter course loads will fork over $247 per credit hour compared to $219 for 15 credit hours and just $183 for 18. Yet those part-time students – likely many with family responsibilities that preclude a 15-credit-hour course load – will actually pay less under the new plan than the old.

Giving serious students more bang for their buck made sense for UNM last year, and it makes sense for NMSU now. It aligns with NMSU’s internal scholarship programs and legislative changes that require 15 credit hours a semester for the lottery scholarship. It promises to make the beleaguered lottery fund go further if more students opt for heavier loads with lower tuition rates. It eases the financial burden on students and families, as avoiding two extra years of college tuition saves more than $12,000. And it offers the chance for those new graduates to join the workforce, earning incomes in their chosen fields, rather than scrambling to come up with cash and taking out loans to cover the classes they need to get a degree.

All those factors make NMSU’s new tuition structure a win-win for students and the university, in the short and long runs.

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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