New Mexico ranks worst for college enrollment decline, but UNM, NMSU buck the trend | KOB 4

New Mexico ranks worst for college enrollment decline, but UNM, NMSU buck the trend

Tommy Lopez
Updated: January 12, 2021 10:45 AM
Created: January 10, 2021 07:37 PM

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed NMSU's fall enrollment decline at 7%. The university's system-wide enrollment dropped 7% and the Las Cruces campus only saw a drop off of .5%.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Colleges across the country are hurting because of the pandemic and continue to face a range of problems from budget shortfalls to shrinking enrollment. While colleges in New Mexico are no exception, officials from New Mexico’s largest university said they have managed to avoid a large drop in its student population. 

According to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, New Mexico colleges saw a 9.5% decrease in the number of returning students for the Fall 2020, which was more than any other state.  

More than two-thirds of all the classes at the University of New Mexico are not meeting in person this semester—just like in the fall. Those numbers look similar to other college in the U.S. However, as many people decide to put their higher education on hold until the pandemic eases up, officials with the University of New Mexico said enrollment is looking much better compared to other schools. 

"We've weathered this pretty well,” said Dan Garcia, UNM vice president for enrollment management.

Garcia said the spring semester has been shaping up to be more of the same, and that they’ve avoided a large decrease in the number of students. 

"Right now we've got a little over 18,000 students who are registered for spring. We expect about a couple thousand more,” he said. “We should be above 20,000. We're pretty close to where we were last year at this time." 

Those current enrollment numbers are an accomplishment for UNM, which has faced declining enrollment for years.

Last fall, UNM saw a 2.4% decrease in enrollment, which was not nearly as bad as officials feared, and lines up with the national mark of 2.5%.

Freshman enrollment on the national level dropped substantially by more than 13%, but UNM saw a 7.5% increase. 

“There’s lots of demand for UNM education,” Garcia said. “Right now the numbers are pretty close to where they were last year.We’ll probably be in about the same ballpark.” 

Garcia said active recruiting played a big part in the university’s success. 

"Give credit to the academic advisors, to the persistence of the students, again, to the quality of a UNM education,” he said. 

New Mexico State University's Las Cruces campus only saw a .5% drop in fall enrollment. System-wide, the decline was 7%.

Still, budget challenges persist for both UNM and NMSU as they’ve reported losing millions of dollars due to the pandemic. 

Most UNM classes will resume Jan. 19 and NMSU begins its semester Jan. 25. 

Both universities are still accepting application for the spring. 

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