The University of New Mexico (UNM) is among the lower in the nation when it comes to graduation rates, and it could cost the university millions of dollars in federal and state financial aid.
During President Barrack Obama’s State of the Union speech on Jan. 24, he proposed in the 2012-2013 budget, if colleges and universities do not start improving graduation rates, it may affect financial aid for students on the federal and state levels. But, this plan will award colleges and universities that improve graduation rates under Obama’s proposal.
“Students will receive the greatest government grant and loan support at colleges where they are likely to be best served, and little to no campus aid will flow to colleges that fail to meet affordability and value standards,” Obama said.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, last year 95 percent of students at UNM applied for some form of financial aid to pay for college. However, UNM’s graduation rate was 45.1 percent in 2010-2011 compared to 46.7 percent at New Mexico State University and 47.4 percent at New Mexico Institute and Technology — the national average is 57 percent.
Mark Chisholm, director of institutional research at UNM, worries if the university does not show improvement in graduation rates the school could lose a lot.
“If UNM does not shape-up with graduation rates, the university as a whole would pay the price because of low graduation rates,” Chisholm said. “And if this occurs, not only we (UNM) would lose funds to help research projects and give monies to deserving students, but we would lose good students who want to come here.”
Brian Malone, director of Student Financial Aid at UNM, worries if steps are not taken soon to address low graduation rates, students may receive less financial aid on both the state and federal levels.
“If UNM does not improve graduation within the next two or three years, students would be the biggest losers,” Malone said.
In 2010-2011, UNM students receive the highest financial aid package, averaging $11,621 per student, compared to NMSU’s students’ financial aid package at $9,995 and New Mexico Institute and Technology $6,704. If UNM, MNSU and New Mexico Institute and Technology continue to have low graduation rates, students may see less financial aid coming their way because of lower financial aid monies given to the schools by the state and federal government.
Nancy Middlebrook, associate director of institutional research, believes if UNM shows progress with graduation rates in the next couple of years, it will not have to worry about any potential consequences.
“If the university take steps in improving graduation rates and show the state and federal governments that we are actually showing improvement in this matter, then the university has nothing to worry about,” Middlebrook said.