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Enrollment up at UNM West but down at CNM

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Rio Rancho may not consider itself a college town, but almost 2,700 students have registered for classes this semester at area campuses. And at least a couple of the campuses appear ready to expand.

UNM West had 858 students on the first day of class. (File photo)

UNM West had 858 students on the first day of class. (File photo)

UNM West

The University of New Mexico’s campus in Rio Rancho, UNM West, counted 858 students registered for classes on the first day of this semester, according to campus CEO Wynn Goering. That represents a 22 percent increase over last year’s spring semester.

Curriculum development has boosted enrollment at the campus, which opened in its current location in City Center in January 2010.

“We’ve been working hard to offer a range of classes that students really need and want to succeed in their programs at UNM,” he said.

UNM West has started offering lower-division classes and more courses that lead to graduation.

“We hope to have at least 10 programs in place that students can finish right here in Rio Rancho by the time summer and fall registration begins in April,” Goering said.

The campus continues to diversify its offerings. Goering estimated almost a third of UNM West students take at least one online course. UNM West enrolls a small number of dual-credit students but does not offer any classes at area high schools.

“We hope to grow that market over time,” he said.

UNM West plans to double its enrollment within the next two years, he said.

CNM Rio Rancho

Enrollment has fallen slightly at the Central New Mexico Community College campus in Rio Rancho.

On Thursday, the campus had 1,239 students registered for spring classes, according to Brad Moore, director of communications and media relations at the main campus.

Enrollment is down 11 percent from last spring.

Community colleges across the nation are watching their enrollment level off and decline as the recession has receded and hiring has picked up.

Moore said CNM has retained many of its students and other colleges have seen a steeper decline.

About a third of the students at CNM Rio Rancho are majoring in pre-health sciences. Many of those students are pursuing a degree in nursing, he said.

The second biggest group at the campus—95 students—is liberal arts majors, many of whom plan to transfer to UNM, Moore said.

CNM makes several options available for distance learning. About a third of CNM students take online classes.

Many Rio Rancho students also take classes at the CNM West Side campus. CNM also offers dual enrollment classes at the area high schools, he said.

During a tour of the Rio Rancho campus, Billy Lorne, who oversees the facility, said the campus could handle more students. Main campus controls the scheduling of classrooms and will likely offer more sections of courses in the future.

Highlands University

The number of students taking classes this semester at the Rio Rancho center for New Mexico Highlands University has dropped to 573, an 18 percent decrease since last spring, according to Sean Weaver, the director of university relations at Highlands.

Weaver said overall registration had increased for Highlands. The administration is not sure why enrollment has dropped at the Rio Rancho center, but is looking into it.

The Rio Rancho center offers undergraduate and graduate programs, primarily in social work, business and education.