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More UNM graduates finish in 4 years

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — More than a quarter of the undergraduates who earned degrees from the University of New Mexico this spring did it in four years – a new UNM record.

Acting President Chaouki Abdallah says UNM’s four-year graduation rate will hit approximately 26 percent this year, the sixth-straight year of growth.

That compares to the 15 percent rate the school reported in 2010-11.

Abdallah – who spent 5½ years as provost before taking over as acting president earlier this year – credits a number of focused initiatives and investments for the improvement.

UNM projects that it will award a record number of bachelor’s degrees this spring, and the acting president said the school set that foundational number four to six years ago.

“You don’t walk into the emergency room and say, ‘Cure me from cancer immediately,'” he said. “You do things over multiple years and multiple interventions before to not get to that point.”

UNM now spends $2.3 million annually on “student success”-oriented programs like advising and the Center for Academic Support. Over the past five years, it also redirected $500,000 into a math learning lab and English program that replaced remedial classes.

It also has put $1.4 million toward student recruitment, some of it aimed specifically at attracting students in what Abdallah calls “the upper echelon of their academic classes” who also have likely contributed to the rising graduation rate.

He said getting to a diploma in four years saves students money but also could be a boon for the state if the newly minted graduates stay in the local workforce and pay taxes.

“The investment we make as a university in these interventions – which is not cheap – will pay off 100 times into both the personal benefit of the students and their parents, but also the state, frankly,” he said.

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