Beginning this fall semester, UNM West will offer degree programs that can be completed in their entirety at the UNM West campus. This will be the first time UNM West, which opened in 2008, will offer this opportunity to students.
“We have ten degrees on the books that students are going to be able to complete in their entirety or almost in their entirety with the aid of online course offerings starting this fall,” UNM West CEO Wynn Goering said.
Among the University of New Mexico degrees to be offered by UNM West are criminology, sociology, communication and journalism, liberal arts and psychology. UNM West will also implement a nursing curriculum beginning this fall.
Goering said the local goals of UNM West make the site different from the main campus.
“Our over-arching operational premise is that we are out here to serve the higher educational needs of Rio Rancho and Sandoval County,” Goering said. “That makes us different in significant ways than the main campus at UNM, which has a statewide mission but also a national and global one, by virtue of its research and service activities.”
Goering said he believes this is just the beginning of UNM West’s developing institutional legitimacy.
“This is a key first step in just having credibility as an academic operation,” Goering said. “So we tried to pick degrees that had both currency in the job market and some frankly, that we thought we had the resources and working relationship with UNM departments to deliver.”
Despite an enrollment gain this spring semester, Goering said UNM West still operates on a very small level. But he said he hopes its size will increase by now offering full degree programs.
“I am not sure where the ultimate plateau is, but at the moment, we are a very small operation,” Goering said. “We have less than one percent of UNM’s enrollment. But we know this to be true, if you offer students what they need, they will line up to take it.”
Goering said he hopes to attract the portion of the undergraduate population in the main campus who already live on the Westside to UNM West.
“Over the years I have seen data suggesting that about one-fourth of UNM’s undergraduate population actually lives somewhere on the Westside,” Goering said. “We know Rio Rancho, even in a recession period, is still the fastest growing part of the Albuquerque metro area. So, we know there are students for whom it would be easier and would make more sense to take a class and get their degree at the Rio Rancho campus.”
Reinaldo A.Z. Garcia, director of educational services at UNM West, said he believes the true value of UNM West is in its size.
“Our classes are smaller. We cap them at about 30,” Garcia said. “So for an incoming freshman, they would be starting a class with 250 to 300 students on main campus. Here they are more likely to be successful because they are going to get more one-on-one attention.”
Garcia also said that parking is free and readily available at the UNM West campus.
“You can park your car and be in your classroom in about 30 seconds if the wind is not blowing too hard,” Dr. Garcia said.
“Some students have said they can drive here from the Northeast Heights and park their car and be in their classrooms faster than they can drive down to the main campus, take a bus and then walk to their classroom.”
UNM West will continue to work with various UNM departments, and the process of hiring full-time professors at UNM West has begun, Goering said.