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Retention, recruitment improve

Enrollment down slightly, but students course loads rise

UNM’s enrollment declined slightly this semester from the same time last year, but the University showed promising signs of improvement in graduate student recruitment and freshmen retention.

The University’s total headcount for all sections of its Albuquerque programs was 22,234 — a 2.04 percent decline from last spring.

“The drop was expected because we had a 2.4 drop in the fall, so you naturally expect one in the spring,” UNM President Bill Gordon said during a Board of Regents meeting Tuesday. “This semester figures were actually higher than we expected, which was nice.”

Gordon added that the University’s enrollment picture is healthy because the main area of student decline is in non-degree course, and the students returning are taking more credit hours.

“We have been encouraging students to take advantage of our degree programs, and we have seen a promising increase in the course load our students are carrying,” he said.

The University returned 86.3 percent of freshmen who enrolled in the fall semester, which is a 1.3 percent increase from last spring. All student categories, with the exception of foreign students whose study at UNM can be limited to one semester, had a return rate of no less than 84 percent.

“We have really been working on our student retention programs, and I think this enrollment report is a reflection of the work we have done in that area,” Gordon said.

He credited Peter White, dean of University College, and his staff for the strides made in student retention. He said the success of UNM’s new freshmen learning communities came earlier than expected and was a pleasant surprise.

The program involves small groups of students who are taught study skills and different 100-level classes from senior University professors. The professsors work together to form an interdisciplinary curriculum.

Gordon said students in the program, which has four sections with more being added in the fall, have been successful this semester.

About 90 percent of the students in the learning community returned this semester, compared with 85 percent of the general population, Gordon said. He added that the group has an overall grade point average of 3.0, compared with the general population’s 2.6, and about 81 percent of the seminar students have earned the Lottery to Success Scholarship, which only takes effect if students meet state requirements during the first semester, compared with 62 percent of all freshmen.

Brian Col¢n, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association, credited the administration with improvements in graduate student enrollment, which was up 2.95 percent this semester with 3,765 students registered in UNM programs.

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“You have not only stopped the bleeding, you have really turned it around,” Col¢n said. “Two years ago we were wondering how we were going to see about getting teaching and graduate assistants insurance, increasing stipends and increasing research and development funding, but this administration has really made those issues a priority. It’s not a coincidence that people across the country are looking to UNM as a strong graduate institution.”

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