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Out-of-state applicants increase, UNM says

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Maybe it’s for the sunshine or perhaps it’s for the research opportunities. But the number of high school students from other states who are looking to become Lobos has spiked this year.

University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes said during a presentation to the Board of Regents on Tuesday that nonresident applications for next school year are up, while applications from in-state students are down about 6%.

There have been 5,694 out-of-state applications, which is a 56% increase from last year at this time, when the school had 3,641 such applications.

Stokes chalked up the increase in out-of-state applicants to a push to market New Mexico by both the university and the state government.

“I would like to think it’s because New Mexico is doing a better job of talking about what a great location this state is. (Students) don’t have to be in Colorado; they don’t have to be in Arizona; they don’t have to be in Texas; they can come from California,” Stokes said. “I see it as very positive. One of the challenges is that these states are actively recruiting New Mexico students to go there. … We’re in competition.”

Although it remains to be seen if the students will end up enrolling, an increase in interest is certainly welcome news at UNM, which has seen enrollment slide in recent years, contributing to budget shortfalls.

“These are preliminary results; it’s not over till it’s over. But we’re encouraged,” Regent President Doug Brown said. “We just have to see. We’re putting an awful lot into this. Last year, we got nailed by crime. Unfortunately, there were three murders on Central Avenue in the spring and summer and it really upset our expectations, and suddenly we were down 2% in our freshmen enrollment.”

This year, the school has 16,170 undergraduates, down more than 18% from 2015, when there were 19,885 undergraduates. In fall 2018 and 2019, the school had 7% and 6.5% declines in overall enrollment, respectively.

The encouraging number of out-of-state applications come from the usual neighboring states and some states that are more of a surprise.

Dan García, vice president for enrollment management at UNM, said California, Texas, Arizona and Colorado have the most out-of-state applications this year. That’s expected, as the states are regular pipelines for UNM students.

But there have been significant jumps in unlikely states as well. For example, 268 Nevada students have applied to UNM this year. Last year at this, time there were 60, he said.

Some high school students appear to be trying to escape cold weather. UNM has received 60 applications this year from Wisconsin, up from 18 last year. There have been 25 applications from New Jersey, which is more than double last year, García said.

“We’ve reached out to a lot more students from out of state to tell our story. What’s our story? We’re one of 131 Research 1 universities, and we’re one of two in the nation that are both a Research 1 institution and a minority-serving institution,” García said. “And those messages seem to be resonating. … But then there are some of the secondary messages, like our great weather.”

Provost James Holloway told regents UNM has made it easier to apply, which may have contributed to the increase. And he cautioned that it remains to be seen if the out-of-state students will actually enroll here.

So far this year, 489 fewer in-state students have applied to UNM. Applications from the northern half of the state are about on par with last year, and the decrease is from students in the southern part of the state, according to university documents.

García said UNM extended a deadline to March and allocated another $2 million in scholarships for in-state students as the school makes a late push to court more New Mexico students.

UNM has admitted about 10% more students so far this year compared with last year: 6,639 to 6,057, according to the documents.

“We need to be careful we’re not preferring out-of-state students over in-state students because it’s local taxpayers that pay our support,” Brown said. “We’re trying to do our best on both fronts.”

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