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Editorial: Boost college grad stats

The University of New Mexico is ahead of the curve in offering incentives for students to graduate quicker and meeting other cost-saving goals, as outlined by Gov. Susana Martinez before a group of university administrators Monday.

The state’s other universities and colleges should follow that example and improve on it where they can.

While Martinez has her eye on moving students into the workforce more quickly to help the state’s economy, the overall cost to taxpayers and others is substantially lowered by graduating in four years as opposed to five or six.

Martinez said she’d like to see at least half of all degree programs in the state get to the 120 credit hour benchmark by next fall and for administrators to come up with incentives to reward students for graduating in four years.

UNM has already begun reducing many undergraduate degree requirements to 120 credit hours from 128, and they plan to further expand those efforts. UNM also offers a tuition-free final semester for students who graduate in four years or less.

Reaching those goals while the Legislature cuts funding for higher education – by $20 million for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1 – will take careful execution. And the Legislature has yet to ensure the long-term viability of its lottery tuition program, which pays the lion’s share of tuition for qualifying students.

Still, with New Mexico ranking 49th in the nation for four-year graduation rates and 47th for six-year graduation rates (using 2013 stats that actually showed an improvement over the previous four years), it’s apparent those efforts need to be implemented with a sense of urgency.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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