Speaking in Albuquerque at her annual higher education summit, the governor said the streamlining helps get students into jobs faster and challenges the state’s public institutions to continue moving in that direction. She singled out New Mexico Highlands University, where 92 percent of degrees require only 120 hours, and Eastern New Mexico University – nearly 90 percent – for their efforts.
Students who take more than four years to finish a bachelor’s degree face an extra $68,153 in costs for each additional year – including the cost of attendance and lost wages – according to the nonprofit, Complete College America.
The governor spoke about the importance of designing efficient and relevant degree programs, citing her own college experience. A University of Texas at El Paso graduate, Martinez said she had to reckon with “extreme” credit requirements to finish her bachelor’s degree in four years – as a criminal justice major, she said she still had to take a weather course.
“Why I needed to know (about clouds), I don’t know, but I couldn’t graduate without it,” she said. “So that’s a lot of the work that’s being done – to say ‘Why is that course there?’ Other than to make money, other than to have a student pay for (it), other than to delay that student (getting) in the workforce.”
The University of New Mexico, the state’s largest university, publicly announced in 2014 its intention to focus more degree programs into 120 hours. It has reduced credit requirements in 87 percent of its programs, according to a spokeswoman, with 72 percent down to 120 hours.
Interim President Chaouki Abdallah cited the lowered credit-hour requirements among the key contributing factors to the university’s improved graduation rates. UNM’s four-year graduation rate has nearly doubled to 29.4 percent since 2012.