Thursday, May 07, 2009
CNM Surpasses UNM
By Martin Salazar
Journal Staff Writer
For the first time, Central New Mexico Community College has edged out the University of New Mexico as the state's largest higher-education institution.
CNM had 172 more students enrolled this spring than the University of New Mexico.
"I think it is a true testament to the quality of this institution. And of course I might be taking it a little too far, but the reality is that we're flexible, and we create opportunities for students to do distance learning and to come in the evenings and come on the weekends," CNM President Katharine Winograd said.
Those actions have given working adults the opportunity to return to college, she said.
The head count for CNM's college-credit courses this spring stood at 24,621, while the number was 24,449 at UNM's Albuquerque campus.
Terry Babbitt, UNM's associate vice president for enrollment management, downplayed the significance of CNM surpassing UNM. He said comparing the enrollment of a community college to that of a university isn't really valid because of differences between the two institutions. CNM is a two-year college, while UNM is a research university providing everything from bachelor's degrees to doctorates.
"We're happy for CNM. We're glad their enrollments are solid," Babbitt said. "We're glad their enrollments are increasing because that should equate to higher enrollments of transfer students for us."
The two institutions have entered a series of agreements to make it easier for students to transfer between them without losing credits.
Winograd and Babbitt agree that part of the reason for the enrollment increase at CNM is the troubled economy. When people are losing their jobs, fear they might lose their jobs or simply want to make more money, they go to community colleges because it's a quick and cheap way to upgrade their skills, CNM spokesman Brad Moore said.
Community colleges across the country are "bursting at the seams," according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Winograd also thinks more students are seeing community colleges as a good option for higher education.
"When the economy has problems, what we see at CNM is an increase in enrollment, and we're certainly experiencing that in a very big way now because of the very large drop in the economy," Winograd said. "However, there's kind of three or four different things going on."
She said students are also turning to community colleges for training in health fields and other high-demand areas. And some students are opting to attend community colleges for their first two years and then transfer to a university as a way to save money, Winograd said.
A semester's worth of tuition and fees at CNM is $492, compared with $2,417 at UNM.
Community colleges recently received a plug from President Barack Obama, who referred to them in a speech as "a great and undervalued asset."