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UNM leader says graduations still rising

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Graduation and retention rates continue to climb, construction projects are in the works across campus and entrepreneurship is alive and well at the University of New Mexico.

FRANK: Gives Economic Forum presentation

FRANK: Gives Economic Forum presentation

That was the message UNM President Bob Frank presented in a 40-minute presentation Wednesday morning before the Economic Forum.

Specifically, he talked about making UNM an “entrepreneurial hub” in Albuquerque – through new curriculum for students and partnerships with other entities. He also discussed a need to draw more private dollars into the state rather than relying on federal funding.

“Our university is a big part of that,” he said.

Frank said UNM has faced challenges recently. Specifically, shrinking state dollars forced it to raise tuition and cut vacant positions, and a recent U.S. Department of Justice investigation found UNM at times failed to comply with federal gender anti-discrimination laws.

But in his PowerPoint presentation – sprinkled with videos of students and UNM leaders – Frank drew attention to the upcoming construction projects on campus such as: the creation of a new science building that will house the physics and astronomy departments; a major renovation of the student recreation center, Johnson Gym; and a revamp of Smith Plaza.

He also touted the construction of an entertainment site near University Stadium and across the street from WisePies Arena, aka The Pit.

Frank gave an update on Innovate ABQ, a private-public partnership involving the university, Bernalillo County and private partners, whose goal is to create a downtown district for research and innovation within the city. Construction on the first building in that district starts this summer.

As for student success, he said that, from 2011 to 2015, four-year graduation rates have risen from 15 percent to nearly 20 percent and six-year graduation rates went from roughly 45 percent to nearly 50 percent. In the same time period, the percentage of freshmen students returning for their sophomore year increased from about 74 percent to nearly 80 percent.

“We work very diligently to make students graduate faster with really good degrees,” he said.

Frank also used the meeting to call on leaders to support an upcoming mill levy in the fall that provides about $90 million for hospital operations.