Blogging @ CNM

Central New Mexico Community College


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How Can We Pave a Faster Track to Graduation?

Hello CNM,

It’s good to be back blogging with you after a brief hiatus. I’m looking forward to a great summer, and hope you are too!

As you probably know, CNM is offering 20 percent of our courses this summer in an 8-week format. This is a pilot program that we’ll be studying closely. We’ll be keeping tabs on how students perform in this condensed schedule and we’ll survey students and faculty on their overall experience with it.

If feedback is positive and student success rates are good, should we consider offering students the opportunity to get on a faster track to a degree or certificate through this kind of scheduling model? In the fall and spring terms, which have 16 weeks allotted, a student could conceivably complete four terms of coursework in two terms if we offer select classes in 8-week segments. Is this a good idea, at least for some students?

We’ll see how this summer goes with the 8-week courses, but there’s no doubt that we must try to find new ways to get our students “In, Through and Out” faster. Too many of our students are held up for a variety of reasons that hinder their ability to graduate earlier rather than later. Just think about the much-needed money a student could be making if they didn’t have to spend an extra term waiting to finish one or two classes for their degree. If they were working in their field of study with a degree in hand rather than spending those four months in class, just think of how much better off the student and their family would be.

CNM is also considering the feasibility of offering “intersession” courses, which would be offered over the term breaks.

If we can find new ways of helping more students finish their required classes more quickly, in a way that doesn’t undermine the academic journey, the impact on our community could be huge.

So what do you think of these ideas for providing students the opportunity to get on a faster track to graduation and a career?

Do you have any other ideas that could help us get students “In, Through and Out” faster?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please join in the conversation below. Thanks!


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Let’s Talk Dual Credit

Do you remember being a high school student? Were you overwhelmed with all the career choices? Or did you know exactly what you wanted to do after high school and how you were going to get there?

Dual credit opens up a world of opportunity for high school students. It’s a great opportunity to experience college and to start career exploration at an earlier age. Students can take that psychology class that sounds so alluring. Or take a College Success Experience course to help them figure out what college is all about.

New Mexico legislation allows high school students to take college-level classes tuition-free while their high school’s district takes care of the textbook costs. The student who successfully completes a college-level class earns college credit and high school elective credit. It’s an opportunity for high school students to taste success and to start envisioning a future that includes a college degree or certificate. After one or two dual credit classes a student can step onto a campus as a full-time student and have the confidence to think, “Yes, I can succeed as a college student.”

We talk about how dual credit opens doors to success for high school students, but what does the data say? Research shows that Dual Credit students are more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to continue on to college and more likely to graduate from college.

According to a study by UNM’s Center for Education Policy Research, students who take dual credit classes, on average, graduate from college significantly faster than those who don’t take dual credit. Students who take dual credit are also much more likely to graduate from high school, including low-income students. Low-income dual credit students graduated from high school at a rate of 86.8 percent, compared to the overall rate of 47.5 percent. Higher income students who took dual credit graduated from high school at a 98.2 percent rate, compared to 87 percent overall. Also, students who took dual credit were significantly less likely to need remedial classes in college.

Helping more high school students pursue college degrees helps us build a stronger economy for our state. And for CNM, dual credit provides an opportunity to work with students in high school and to help them continue on their path in higher education. In addition, more dual credit students lead to more students in our classrooms.

As a college, dual credit has also provided us with a way to engage our community partners, such as Albuquerque Public Schools. The state high school graduation requirements were changed starting with the class of 2013.  Now, all high school students need to complete an Advanced Placement, honors, online or dual credit class to graduate. Dual credit provides APS students a way to meet that requirement while at the same time banking college credit toward a future degree or certificate.

Dual credit also provides a chance for students to explore career paths. They could pursue an associate degree in business and then transfer to a four-year university for a bachelor’s degree. Or they could follow their passion for working with animals and start their journey to earning an associate degree in veterinary technology. Or they could pursue a career technical education field and go quickly from the college classroom to a career.

As we continue to help our high school students succeed in the classroom and provide them that opportunity to meet their high school graduation requirements, we’ll continue to look for ways to build a stronger partnership with our secondary education partners. Please share your thoughts on dual credit and contribute to the discussion.


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A President’s Leadership Lesson

Paul Wellman, who was a journalist, popular author and screenwriter, once said, “If a teacher does not involve himself, his values, his commitments in the course of discussion, why should the students?” The essence of this quote resonates with me as the president of a college where we want full, fair and civil discussions to remain one of our fundamental core values. Full, fair and civil discussions should also not be the casualty of anyone’s decisions or of our disagreements with one another. That is why I want this to be the discussion of today’s blog.

When teaching or making presentations about leadership, I often talk about how important it is to be very comfortable with what you personally value. It is also important for leaders to know that values often conflict with each other.

So which values am I talking about and how did they conflict?

In this venue, I believe the best way to discuss this topic is to address the two opposite opinions concerning my decisions regarding the CNM Chronicle. To those who believe I should have shut down the paper, I want to say that college is an extraordinary place that provides an opportunity to learn, grow, explore and test boundaries. College is also a magical time in your life whether you’re 16 or 96, when you can explore and carry out unfettered discussions of ideas. Although there are limitations and consequences, colleges should provide boundaries that are as deep and wide as we can possibly make them. I value that college is an environment where students become smarter, better and more courageous through discussion, discord and debate.

To those who believe I should not challenge student employees’ judgment and decisions, I want them to know I have some competing values that are related to my obligations as president, among other concerns. That is why I stated that I believe the college can do a better job of helping the student employees who serve as editors and reporters by providing the resources, education and training that is warranted by the existence of a student newspaper at a college without a journalism program, including education about the legal and ethical risks associated with journalism.

The current student employees at the CNM Chronicle are passionate about putting out a great weekly student newspaper and they have done some good work. They should be able to write about whatever they want. But, I believe first and foremost, CNM should provide them with the best student work experience possible, which is what we strive to do for all our student employees.

I know this will not be my last lesson in leadership or my last tough decision, but I am proud and thankful to work at a college where I am able to change my decision, experience yet another “learning” moment, and move on, hopefully a little wiser.

I want people to know that we can have civil discussions about hot-button topics at CNM. I want to let everybody across the college know that we all need to feel free to discuss our viewpoints and know that we are in a safe environment to do so. Of course, there always needs to be a respectful level of civility when two people have opposing viewpoints. And sometimes it’s best to agree to disagree. But we work at a college, where a vibrant and open marketplace of ideas is at the heart of our educational mission.

Thank you for reading. And please post your thoughts on this blog. I’d love to see us have a discussion on the topic.


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CNM’s State Funding to Increase 8.8 Percent Over Last Year, But it’s Still $3 Million Short of 2008 State Funding – What Are Our Options for Funding Sources?

You might have read my message last week about the Legislature passing the state budget, which includes an 8.8 percent increase in state funding for CNM for the upcoming fiscal year compared to the state funding we received last year. Although this will be a very welcomed increase, we’re still going to receive less state funding than we received in 2008. In fact, we’ll be receiving $3 million less in state funding for the year ahead than we received in 2008. And we’re accommodating more student demand now than we were in 2008. So, even though we’re getting an 8.8 percent increase in state funding compared to last year, the coming year will be a fiscal challenge for CNM.

On March 21, the Albuquerque Journal reported an interesting, and sobering, fact – New Mexico’s cuts to higher education have exceeded the national average from 2008 through the current fiscal year. The Journal cited a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C., which revealed that New Mexico has cut higher education spending per student by an average of 36.7 percent, compared to the national average of 28 percent.

This is troubling, especially since New Mexico is showing few signs of a robust economic recovery in the near future.

CNM has three sources of revenue – state appropriations, CNM’s mill levy (property taxes from the CNM District), and tuition and fees. State appropriations used to be our largest source of funding, but now each of the three revenue sources make up about a third of our funding. CNM’s mill levy will remain flat again this year and our enrollment has been trending slightly downward the last couple years.

We all hope that our state funding will continue to increase in the years ahead, but that is far from a given. Actually, if you pay attention to a lot of studies and forecasts out there, we may never get back to the same level of state funding we grew accustomed to in the decade or so prior to 2009.

We can hope, and we need to hope. But we also need contingency plans for the possibility that our state funding never rebounds to pre-2009 levels, or at least the possibility that it doesn’t rebound in the near future.

Should we consider exploring new ways to generate revenue? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so let’s have a discussion. Don’t be shy. Let me know what you think!


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Are Too Many Students Being Forced Into Remediation?

A recent story in Education Week delved into some research studies that are pointing to a common conclusion – far too many students are unnecessarily being diverted into remedial classes.

The studies are suggesting that placement-test scores alone are not enough to determine whether a student should be required to take developmental education courses. The story offers some interesting options to supplement placement-test scores, such as looking more closely at high school transcripts or allowing students into credit classes while supporting them with tutoring.

It’s an interesting story on a topic that has gotten a lot of national and statewide attention. Please read the story in Education Week and let’s have a discussion about it.


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Are We the Reason for New Mexico’s Economic Woes? Forbes Says So

Hey CNM!

Did you know that you live in an economic “Death Spiral State?” That’s what Forbes magazine says about New Mexico. Our state’s economy is burning to ashes, ready to collapse into what Forbes calls a “Fiscal Hellhole.” Know why? Too many takers… Not enough makers, the magazine says.

Do you know what Forbes considers you, as an employee of a state-funded college? What they consider us? “Takers.” In other words, we’re the ones digging the fiscal hellhole.

From Forbes: “Two factors determine whether a state makes this elite list of fiscal hellholes (which includes NM and 10 other states). The first is whether it has more takers than makers. A taker is someone who draws money from the government, as an employee, pensioner or welfare recipient. A maker is someone gainfully employed in the private sector.”

Interesting how they define a public employee as somebody who “draws money from the government,” and someone in the private sector as “gainfully employed.” But we’ve heard this kind of divisive thinking a lot in recent years, if we’ve been listening.

There’s no question – New Mexico and the Albuquerque-metro area are highly dependent on agencies and institutions that are funded by federal or state dollars, like Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos National Labs, CNM, UNM, Kirtland Air Force Base, etc.

But we also know that a lot of private-sector jobs are spawned from places like Sandia and Los Alamos, and that institutions like CNM and UNM prepare students to become the leaders and the backbone of the private-sector economy. Don’t we educate and help empower the so-called “makers?”

Here’s a link to the Forbes story. If you have trouble accessing it in Internet Explorer, try it in a different browser like Firefox or Safari.

So what’s your take on being labeled a “taker?” Are you offended? Or do they have a point – is New Mexico doomed to be a fiscal hellhole because we have too many “takers” and not enough “makers?”  Should we be listening to these kinds of assertions? Or just dismissing them as nonsense?

I really want to hear what you have to think. Please leave a comment.


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Some Colleges Go ‘MOOC’

Hello CNM!

Thanks for stopping by… I’m wondering how many of you have heard of MOOCs? If you hadn’t yet, you have now. And you will hear a lot more about them in the very near future.

It stands for Massive Open Online Courses, and it’s the latest craze in online higher education. Many think it will inevitably revolutionize higher education as we know it, for the better. Some think it’s a fad, or worse, an ominous threat to the pillars of education.

The basic idea behind MOOCs right now is making an online class open to anybody who wants to sign up free of charge, and with no credit awarded. One MOOC at the University of Virginia this term has 42,000 students! And some of the most elite institutions in the country – Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among many others – are leading the charge for MOOCs. It’s a way to expand their brand and provide their most talented professors a worldwide stage and rock-star status.

For students, MOOCs can give them a taste of a particular discipline before starting to invest in a degree. Or they can simply brush up on anything they fancy, like, say… American Revolutionary War history by sitting in on lectures from their couch with Harvard’s most distinguished history professor. Or they can learn Spanish or take a math class or a political science class at a community college, free. If they like what they see and learn, the idea goes, they might be more likely to register for credit courses and pursue a degree at your college.

Some colleges are already rushing to set up pilots that offer credit to students who have taken MOOCs.

It’s a fascinating topic. And it very well might revolutionize the direction of higher education, soon.

If this is the first you’ve heard about MOOCs, or you want to hear what’s being said around the country about them, below is just a few stories I’ve found interesting on the topic.

So, what’s your take on MOOCs? A natural evolutionary step for higher education? Or a dangerous dash into an educational quagmire? Or somewhere in between?

“Instruction for Masses Knocks Down Campus Walls” — New York Times

“Irrational Exuberance Over MOOCs” – The Washington Post

“Into the Future with MOOCs” – Chronicle of Higher Education, commentary

“Don’t Panic Amid Predictions of Higher Ed’s Demise” – Inside Higher Ed, faculty column

Georgia State U. to Grant Course Credit for MOOCs – Chronicle of Higher Education

“MOOCs and Tablet Computing Are Top Tech Trends in Horizon Report” – Chronicle of Higher Education

“What Campus Leaders Need to Know About MOOCs” – Educause

“Massive Open Online Classes Raise Questions About Future of Education” – NBC Nightly News