Editor's Note: This story originally stated that an advisor who specialized in UNM curriculum was a CNM position, when it was in fact appointed by UNM. It has been corrected. The Daily Lobo apologized for the error.
With graduation quickly approaching, some seniors are realizing they have not only met their mark for credit hours, but vastly exceeded it as well.
Many students transfer from CNM, a two-year community college located nearby, to UNM in hopes of finishing their degree program.
What some of those students have said, though, is that inadequate guidance has led to them taking more classes that will not count towards the degree they will eventually earn. That includes Francisco Cuellar, who will be finishing his collegiate career with a total of 154 credit hours.
“I will be graduating with 154 credits for a B.A. but the vast majority of my extra credits were due to poor advisement at CNM where I was told this class or that class was required, but by the time I got to UNM I had figured out that advisors could point you in the wrong direction,” Cuellar said.
Another senior said she had a similar experience, with advisors eventually directing her to 159 credits for her 128-degree program. Senior biology major Gabrielle Heisey said she will now complete her bachelor’s with 23 extra credit hours that do not even apply to her degree.
Although Heisey has taken expendable classes, she says in the long run the extra material she absorbed will help her with her goals.
“I would say 23 of my credits do no pertain to my biology degree, but are helpful toward my goal of medical school, (including) nutrition and lower level bio classes that were not instrumental to my bachelors in biology,” she said.
Chioma Heim is a CNM advisor who specializes in advisement within the School of Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences and is part of CNM’s transfer task team. Heim said that there used to be a UNM-appointed advisor at CNM who specialized in curriculum at the University and was used as a resource when CNM advisors couldn’t answer some questions.
“She worked here and had a really good knowledge of UNM requirements and then she learned a lot about CNM requirements, and she was able to help students know both worlds,” Heim said.
“When we had those particular nuanced type questions about ‘OK this student can take this class for their humanities right here, but is it something that can work over at UNM’ we could ask her.”
Despite its usefulness, Heim said the position has been vacant since the advisor who filled it returned to UNM about a year ago.
Even though CNM is a two-year college, staff from both CNM and UNM meet regularly to discuss updates to catalogs and changes to curriculum, according to UNM Registrar Alex Gonzalez. When a CNM student transfers their credits to UNM, UNM is in charge of finding an equivalent course that both institutions offer to easy the process of transferring and applying credits.
However, transferable credit hours do not necessarily mean they will apply. Even though credits may be matched and paired between CNM and UNM, they may not be applicable to a student’s degree program once they’ve changed schools.
Gonzalez is in charge of records and registration, catalogs, residency, transfer articulation and degree audits. He said that thousands of classes are created at the University so that as many credits as possible can be applied.
“We have got hundreds and hundreds of thousands of courses we have articulated and we have equivalencies based on transcripts we receive from students from multiples universities across the country and the world,” Gonzalez said.
With this much information funneling into UNM, and with constant communication with CNM about core curriculum and transferable courses, the amount of students still finishing college with 20 or more credits than is necessary poses a question of lapse in accountability.
One possible reason could be that CNM doesn’t prioritize seeing students to the degree that UNM and other schools do; CNM only has one mandatory advisement session for students to attend. Heim said that is new students who have never taken college courses before.
After that single advisement session, students bear the responsibility of seeking out advisors.
On the flip side, UNM students are mandated to go to advisement sessions several times over the course of their collegiate career, or risk having holds placed on their accounts.
“There is a lot of self-advisement that happens (at CNM),” Heim said, which can make advising more difficult and guide students in the wrong direction. “A lot of the time advisors get students after they’ve done a year or two of self-advisement that was offered to them by others that have gone to the school previously.”
Both Heim and Gonzalez said the best way to prevent complications is for students to go to their advisors and lay out their final goal within academia. Heim calls it a “top down” approach, starting with what students want to accomplish and then working backwards, which is the student’s responsibility.
“Top down advising means, ‘OK you want to get your bachelor’s degree,’ essentially. So I want you to talk to the admissions counselors and the advisors at that institution to figure out what they expect from you,” Heim said.
There are recruiters from UNM at CNM that aid students in finding out what will and will not be compatible when it comes to transferring to UNM. Gonzalez said that recruiters can identify the necessary courses immediately.
“Nothing is worse for an advisor to find out that they misadvised. Just to be candid, that is my biggest fear,” Heim said. “No one’s life is threatened by it…there are a lot of other things that are put at stake if that happens.”
Nick Fojud is a student at the Communications and Journalism Department.