While college participation rates in New Mexico meet or exceed the national average for older age groups, minority and young adult participation lags behind. And the state’s overall completion and attainment rates are low, especially for minorities and young adults. Closing these gaps remains a top priority for state leaders. The legislature has attempted to address participation, retention and completion through financial aid, dual and concurrent enrollment, and transfer and articulation. While these policies have improved college-going rates, persistence and degree completion remain a challenge.
Increasing college attainment will help New Mexico respond to the increasing need for individuals with postsecondary credentials – in particular, certificates and associate degrees – to fill workforce demands. Doing so also would boost income levels for the state’s citizens, which are far below the national average. By cultivating college and career pathways, the legislature can emphasize the credentials that produce the greatest wage premiums for employees and that align with the workforce skills that employers demand.
How does New Mexico rank compared to the national average?
Adults 25-64 with college degrees: 39th (34% vs. 38%)
High school graduates going directly to college: 11th (67.7% vs. 63.3%)
Gap in college attainment between young and older adults: 49th (-7.28% vs. 2.05%)
STEM credentials awarded per 1,000 STEM employees: 35th (49.6% vs. 54.4)
Credentials awarded per 1,000 18- to 44-year-olds with no degree: 44th (30.5% vs. 37.6%)
Workers with college degrees earning low wages: 45th (29.3% vs. 22.9%)
The college attainment rate in New Mexico is substantially lower than the U.S. average and most states, due in large part to low rates of college retention and completion. Despite high rates of enrollment into college, this low attainment rate appears to be the byproduct of several forces. The first is that retention from year-to-year is slipping, while younger adults are enrolling in college at a lower rate than older adults. Secondly, equity gaps exist between whites and minorities, especially among Hispanic/Latino students. Wages for workers are relatively low for those at every level of education, despite job growth in economically viable sectors such as health, STEM and business fields.
Boosting College Completion has produced a comprehensive 50-state legislative database related to college completion and workforce development. The database will grow as we continue to collect and analyze policies.
Reporting First Year College Outcomes of New Mexico Public High School Graduates – S.B. 152 (2009)
Relating to Articulation of Postsecondary Credits, Common Course Numbering – S.B. 161 (2005)
Creating a Student Longitudinal Data System – H.B. 70 (2010)
The New Mexico State Legislature and the Legislative Education Study Committee, in particular, have identified the core challenges associated with postsecondary retention, degree completion and workforce outcomes. The data are clear: the primary challenge is getting adults into college and into livable-wage jobs. To more effectively meet college and career challenges, the legislature might consider:
Evaluating whether current policies increase college attainment in high-demand fields and close equity gaps between whites and Latinos/Latinas
Examining how to unlock the educational and workforce potential of two adult populations: those with limited English proficiency and those with some college but no credential
Structuring the education/workforce pipeline to meet economic demands and improve access to livable-wage jobs.
News & Updates
Bruce Vandal testified to the New Mexico Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) on October 12, 2011 about the college completion and workforce development challenges and opportunities the state faces.