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Governor announces new goal for higher education

SANTA FE, N.M. — Gov. Susana Martinez says she wants 66 percent of working-age New Mexicans to have a degree or post-high-school credential of some kind by 2030 – a challenge she called the “Route to 66.”

She outlined the goal on Friday during a speech to regents, faculty, students and others who gathered in Albuquerque for a statewide summit on higher education.

The governor estimated that about 43 percent of working-age New Mexicans now hold a post-secondary credential. Pushing that rate up to 66 percent would help provide the educated, prepared workforce that employers demand, she said.

“We’ve already come so far, but we cannot stop reaching,” she said. “Let’s all get on the ‘Route to 66.’ ”

New Mexico colleges and universities are already moving toward a requirement of only 120 credit hours for students to graduate with a bachelor’s degree – a change that makes it easier for people to finish their work in four years, Martinez said. The University of New Mexico, for example, reduced its requirement from 128 hours to 120 in 2014, a move that supporters said brings it in line with the national standard.

The governor said requirements for extra, frivolous courses put an extra financial burden on students.

She joked about how she, as a college student, had to take a weather class that wasn’t particularly relevant to her pursuit of a career in criminal justice.

Martinez, of course, is a former district attorney. But she knows how to identify a nimbus cloud, she said.

The governor said she’s proud of other initiatives aimed at preparing college students for jobs.

She praised Central New Mexico Community College students who built a website with information on internships.

The site will go up next month. It’ll be a portal that connects students and employers, she said, and help push the community toward the “Route to 66” goal.

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