LCSN: With few NM students available, NMSU goes out of state to recruit

August 23, 2010. Retrieved online August 24, 2010 from Adriana Gómez Licón, Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – High-school graduation rates have declined in New Mexico, and that has turned college recruiting into a far-reaching enterprise.

New Mexico State University has intensified its efforts to attract students from across the West. That means the Land of Enchantment is becoming an oasis for more high-school graduates from Arizona, California and Colorado.

“We are more welcome here than in Colorado,” said Bailey Schurr, an incoming NMSU freshman who is from a rural area of southwestern Colorado.

Elsewhere in the West, universities face a crowding crisis.

In California, public universities have capped enrollment and raised tuition and admission standards. Arizona State University last year capped enrollment for the first time and closed applications for the incoming freshman class five months earlier than usual. Given these developments, many students in those states have to go out of state for a college education.

New Mexico has the opposite problem – a drop in college-bound students.

Gov. Bill Richardson said last year that the state had an “unacceptable” high-school dropout rate of 46 percent, making the pool of in-state students for New Mexico universities not nearly as robust as the pools in other Western states.

“Because the number of high-school graduates in the state of New Mexico is declining, we must continue to find new markets,” said Valerie Pickett, director of admissions at NMSU.

New Mexico had about 5,000 fewer students in high school than in college in 2008, census statistics show. In Texas and nationwide, the number of high-schoolers exceeded the number of college students.

“With the problems in Arizona and California, we are able to offer students a great educational opportunity – one they may not be able to find in their own state,” Pickett said.

High-school principals and counselors in those two states have asked NMSU to send recruiters to visit students, she said.

NMSU also prepared a transfer guide for the Arizona Community College system. It helps students see how their credits can transfer to New Mexico.

Alumni chapters in California and Arizona have helped NMSU lure prospective students. Their efforts were recognized last week at NMSU’s convocation.

How Schurr, 18, ended up at NMSU was more personal.

“My parents talked about it all the time,” she said.

Schurr’s parents met as students at New Mexico State.

She is interested in pursuing agricultural business and education.

Still, Schurr said, she would have chosen a college in Colorado if not for the cost. Even with a scholarship offer, she said, her home-state schools could not beat the resident tuition price New Mexico State offered her.

Schurr pays resident tuition at NMSU because of a reciprocity agreement among 15 Western states.

New Mexico is a member of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. This means New Mexican students can attend schools in one of the 14 other states and pay resident tuition or 150 percent of the in-state cost, depending on the school. Some schools do not participate, such as UCLA, UC-Berkeley, the University of Washington and Arizona State.

A total of 581 students from elsewhere enrolled in New Mexico colleges last school year and are receiving tuition waivers, according to the commission. Each year, NMSU absorbs about $11,000 per student in tuition costs by waiving out-of-state fees.

“It gives a lot of opportunities to small-town kids like me,” Schurr said.

In-state tuition at New Mexico State is $5,400 this school year. The out-of-state rate is triple that at $16,680. NMSU also waives out-of-state costs for students in the western tip of Texas, from El Paso to Sierra Blanca.

Some El Pasoans have chosen New Mexico State over the University of Texas at El Paso. Tuition is cheaper and the commute is about 45 minutes. Students at UTEP pay about $6,600 a year for a full-course load.

Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article.

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