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CNM enrollment rises as the economy falls

By Rivkela Brodsky
Journal Staff Writer
          The bad economy is proving to be a good thing for Central New Mexico Community College.
        CNM's spring enrollment is up 12 percent compared to the spring semester of 2007. According to numbers provided by CNM, it is the second-highest enrollment number since the fall 2008 semester, which was the highest enrollment ever for CNM. It was the largest enrollment for any spring semester at 24,608 students. The fall semester saw an enrollment of 24,870 students.
        "It is a trend that when the economy weakens, more turn to community college for retraining and more education," said Brad Moore, CNM's director of communication.
        Amanda Rubio, an advisement assistant at CNM's Academic Advisement & Career Development department, greets students as they come in to see an adviser. At peak times during the registration period, she saw hundreds a day, she said. Students waited 2 1/2 hours to see an adviser, she said.
        "I've never seen a wait time so long," Rubio said. Now that registration has slowed down, she still sees up to 40 to 50 students daily. Rubio said at least half of those coming to the advisement center said they were there because of layoffs or because they are hoping to better their employment situation.
        Robert Alonzo, who enrolled in the radiology technician program this semester, said he had planned to go back to school eventually, but the economy prompted him to return this spring.
        He was working at an auto shop when work got slow at the beginning of the year. The shop let six employees go at the beginning of January, including him, because of a lack of work. "I went out and tried to find work," he said. "But no one was hiring."
        He attended CNM in 2004 (when it was TVI) to become a radiology technician and decided to go back into the program.
        "I want to further my career and become successful," he said.
        Moore said CNM was expecting a spike in enrollment based on growth in student numbers in the fall semester and added more short-term classes to this semester's lineup. Faculty was put on alert to expect fuller classes, and a small number of mostly part-time faculty were hired to handle the increase.
        CNM saw major increases in enrollment in health, trades and tourism, and hospitality programs, Moore said.
        The pharmacy technician program, for example, saw enrollment rise 43 percent compared to the spring semester of 2007. The program had 104 students in the spring semester of 2007 and now has 149 enrolled in the program this semester. The photovoltaic installation, or solar program, saw student enrollment grow from 127 students in 2007 to 267 students this semester, a growth of 110 percent.
        Some of the other increases:
        • Nursing is up 15 percent, from 2,554 students in the spring semester of 2007 to 2,939 in 2008.
        • The medical lab technician program is up 30 percent, from 109 students last spring to 142 this spring semester.
        • The EMT paramedic program is up 39 percent from 216 in 2007 to 300 in 2008.
        Sydney Gunthorpe, dean of the School of Business and Information Technology at CNM, said the school saw a 17.1 percent increase in enrollment for this semester. That equals 900 more students this semester over last spring semester, he said. The school offers classes in accounting, business management, culinary arts and more.
        "During difficult times, people look at different alternatives," Gunthorpe said. "People are typically paid more with more education. People are paying attention to that and giving education a try."
        Anticipating the increase, the business school worked on the efficiency of its offerings in the last year, giving students fewer sections to choose from and making classes fuller.
        The biggest increases were with working-age people, not the younger crowd, Moore said.
        • The over-50 age group is up 28.7 percent.
        • The 31-40 age group is up 25.5 percent over last spring semester.
        • The 26-30 age group is up 31.1 percent.
        The University of New Mexico also saw a spike in enrollment numbers for this semester, but is attributing only a portion of that to the economy, said Carmen Alvarez-Brown, vice president for enrollment management at the university. Alvarez-Brown said UNM made efforts over the past year to get transfer and step-out students back in school. Step-out students have left school for at least a semester. She said a big portion of the increase is due to strategies by the university to recruit students.
        Moore said one of the reasons for the spike in student numbers at CNM is affordability. All of the college's trade courses, such as nursing or welding, are tuition-free. Liberal arts courses cost $41 per credit hour, so a full course load would equal about $492 per term for students in the CNM district, which includes Rio Rancho and Albuquerque, Moore said.

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