Blogging @ CNM

Central New Mexico Community College

Degree Audits a Win-Win-Win for Students, Community and Economy

172 Comments

Hello CNM!

Hope you’re having a great summer term.

Did you happen to see the story in the Albuquerque Journal that was headlined “Surprise! You Graduated!” on July 26? It reports on a developing degree-audit effort at CNM that identifies students who have completed all requirements for a degree or certificate and then automatically presents them with the graduation awards they have rightfully earned.

This is something I wish we would have started years ago. It’s a terrific effort – a win-win-win for students, our community and our economy. We all know our region and our state desperately need more college graduates to attract new economic activity, which improves the job prospects for our students and community members while improving the quality of life for all.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of implications made in the story that have caused confusion, which I want to clear up.

First, officially earning an associate degree does not affect a student’s financial aid status. Students are eligible to receive financial aid for 150 percent of the credit hours required to complete their program. For example, if a particular associate degree program requires 70 credit hours to complete, a student is eligible to receive financial aid for 105 credit hours. The Journal ran a correction on Tuesday.

Secondly, there was an unsubstantiated claim in the story that a student was awarded an associate degree without completing a required math course. CNM absolutely refutes the notion that any degree or certificate has been knowingly awarded without a student completing all requirements. The degree that is referenced in the story requires a math or biology class.

The Journal story fairly reported that a significant number of students were not notified that they had earned degrees or certificates early enough to participate in the spring graduation ceremony. This was an unfortunate lapse on our part and we have put plans in motion to make sure this doesn’t happen again. This is a pilot program and we will continue to improve it.

The awesome news is that this initiative helped us to award 4,182 associate degrees and certificates to students in the spring term, which set an all-time record at CNM for graduation awards in a term.

Students who have an associate degree or certificate on their résumé, whether they’re moving on to pursue a bachelor’s degree or not, are in a stronger position to compete for a job and land a higher salary. Our No. 1 job at CNM is to help our students succeed. Making it easier for them to receive the degrees and certificates they have rightfully earned is a no-brainer for me.

Up until now, students have had to voluntarily fill out graduation application paperwork in order to officially receive the associate degrees or certificates they have completed. For quite a while at CNM, we have known that many students do not bother with the process or they are unaware of it altogether. Many of them move on to a university or have already secured a job at the end of their time at CNM. But what if unforeseen life circumstances stop them from achieving that bachelor’s degree or they get laid off from that job? They should have the associate degree or certificate diploma in hand to fall back on – they earned it.

We don’t force students to apply to pass a course. When they earn a passing grade, it automatically goes on their transcript. Should graduation be any different?

Many colleges and universities around the country are in the midst of similar efforts. Here’s a link to a story in the Community College Times about it.

One of the most pressing issues of our time, both in New Mexico and across the country, is the need for more college graduates. Our economic future, and the future of younger generations, will hinge on the success of higher education. As the leading community college in New Mexico, we must continue to lead and do our best to advance this cause.

Before we discuss, I just want to express my great appreciation for all of the tremendous work that has been done by faculty and staff across CNM for the past several years to help more of our students graduate. Since 2008, the number of students graduating from CNM has increased 208 percent, from 2,188 in 2008-09 to 6,732 in 2012-13. Cheers to that!

So, what do you think of this new effort at CNM? Do you see any drawbacks? Or should it be full-steam ahead?

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