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Editorial: UNM makes 4-year strides

Incentives put in place at the University of New Mexico during the tenure of former president Bob Frank and continued under acting President Chaouki Abdallah are showing results in the gold standard of higher education – four-year graduation rates.

Abdallah, who took the helm in January, predicts the university will award a record number of bachelor’s degrees this spring and post a four-year graduation rate around 26 percent. That would mark the sixth straight year of improvement in UNM’s four-year graduation rate.

The incentives aren’t cheap, but students who graduate faster save themselves a lot of money, lower the likelihood of quitting school before obtaining a degree and get into the workforce quicker. UNM now spends $2.3 million annually on academic advisement and the Center for Academic Support. It has redirected $500,000 into a math learning lab and English program that replaced remedial classes and put $1.4 million to recruiting academically successful students.

Working with state Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron, UNM has helped ensure uniformity in course content, making credits more easily transferable. And it has cut the credit hours required for most bachelor’s degrees from 128 to 120, among recommendations from the Martinez administration to make graduating in four years doable. UNM also makes the final semester of classes free for students who stay on track and graduate in four years.

The results are undeniable: From 15.8 in the 2012-13 school year, to 21.7 in 2015-16, to upward of 25 percent this year.

As Abdallah points out, if this upward trajectory continues and these grads stay in New Mexico, the investment “will pay off 100 times into both the personal benefit of the students and their parents, but also the state.”

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.