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NM higher ed ranks in middle of the pack

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico scores right in the middle of the pack, No. 23, in a new state-by-state ranking of public higher education systems.

The analysis of more than 2,000 colleges and universities gives each state a grade from A to F. New Mexico’s is C.

The report — https://smartasset.com/student-loans/top-states-higher-education — was compiled by SmartAsset, a technology-based financial analysis company. It looked at enrollment, tuition, graduation rates and post-graduation employment.

“We wanted to find school systems that were accessible to the state’s high school graduates, and which provided students with a high quality education,” said spokesman Asees Singh.

The New York-based company examined data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and the PayScale College ROI Report.

It considered five specific metrics:

  • The percentage of high school graduates attending in-state universities and two-year colleges;
  • Student-to-faculty ratio, four-year schools;
  • The net price for students receiving financial aid;
  • Graduation rates of four-year universities and colleges;
  • The 20-year return on investment.

In New Mexico, a solid 65 percent of high school graduates go on to attend a state university or college, where the average student-to-faculty ratio is 17.7 to one.

The price for students to attend a four-year school is $10,385. That compares with a high of $18,623 in Pennsylvania and a low of $7,757 in Alaska.

New Mexico’s graduation rate was a lowly 40 percent. Only Alaska (26 percent), Idaho (39 percent) and Nevada (29 percent) scored lower.

University of New Mexico Provost Chaouki Abdallah cautioned that evaluating graduation rates can be tricky. Many rankings, he said, “look at the out, but not the in.” For example, if a university were to exclude lower-achieving high schoolers, its graduation rate would soar. So, if New Mexico demanded a 3.0 high school GPA for incoming freshmen, its rate would improve, even more so if a 3.5 was required.

A stronger, more telling indicator would be the number of graduates or degrees awarded, Abdallah said.

The final category, the 20-year return on investment, was $335,190 in New Mexico. That compares with $450,655 for the highest state, Alaska, and $191,886 for the lowest, Hawaii.

The analysis places Mid-Atlantic states at the top of the class. The only three states receiving a perfect A grade are Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina.

Of the eight states that received an F, four were in the West: Montana, Oregon, Nevada and Idaho.

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