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UNM aims to get more graduating in 4 years

Achievement is defined as something done successfully, typically by effort, courage or skill. Achievement is the avenue by which the University of New Mexico and its students are transcending the transactional process of just getting a degree. In order to achieve, we need the applied effort to succeed, the courage to set high expectations and the skills to plan for the future.

As New Mexico’s flagship university, UNM was established to educate our citizenry. However, this cannot be mistaken for a simple rite of passage, for that would be a disservice to our students, our faculty and our state.

So why is it so important to achieve this goal in four years?

To begin with, there is a significant financial benefit to graduating on time. Delaying graduation results in more debt and lost post-graduation wages.

If you are a full-time in-state student at UNM, every extra semester costs nearly $2,600 in tuition – this means a six-year graduation could cost an additional $10,000. Add the opportunity costs of two years of average earnings and that could now be up to $80,000.

Additionally, students are more likely to complete their undergraduate degree if they finish in four years, rather than extending that time.

Gov. Susana Martinez emphasized that New Mexico is falling short on graduating students on time at the Summit on Higher Education last fall – fewer than 14 percent of students statewide graduate in four years.

UNM continues to be strongly aligned with the strategies outlined at the summit and is leading the way in developing original and realistic initiatives for student success.

We have hit record rates in graduating students in four years and retaining them in the third semester. We must continue to keep improving our graduation rates.

Over the past few years UNM has designed a more structured path for students to complete the undergraduate degree within four years.

UNM has created 120-credit-hour degree programs and a block tuition rate model that make the hourly rate more affordable for students who take at least 15 credit hours per semester; incentivized summer school to catch up or get ahead; restructured advising by encouraging students to choose a field of study early; and developed degree mapping and audit programs to allow students to navigate their chosen fields.

Ensuring that a UNM degree remains valuable and achievable has been my most pressing concern since being appointed as a regent. Student preparedness, motivation and ability to finance college are all critical to graduating on time, and while we realize that not all students will be able to finish in four years, we are confident that many can.

Last spring, I introduced a new incentive that provides the final semester tuition-free for students who complete their baccalaureate degree in four years and guarantees tuition will not rise more than 3 percent in any new academic year.

Taking into account that most academic scholarships and financial aid only cover eight semesters, this incentivized tuition model provides stability and predictability in tuition planning for students and their families.

The response to this finish on time, finish for free initiative has been very positive, with hundreds of students enrolling at UNM after learning more about the initiative at the Web page. In addition, internal tracking of recruitment effectiveness shows the tuition initiative is benefiting UNM’s recruitment efforts.

Preparing for careers and engaging in the enriching experiences afforded by attending UNM, while factoring in life’s demands, are critical skills for students to acquire. Our students are encouraged to proactively plan for their best college experience, and that planning should be rewarded.

Starting college is an important decision. Finishing college is equally important. Achieving that goal takes effort, courage and skill.

This isn’t just a UNM plan – this is a New Mexico plan for increasing educational attainment, reducing student debt and improving our economy.

This is how New Mexico succeeds.

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