Colleges taking steps to improve academic success

Tutoring and other supportive services are just a few improvements being made at Clovis Community College and Eastern New Mexico University as officials work towards improving areas of student success.

A recent report from the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, issued a state-by-state report card on public post-secondary education that showed New Mexico schools receiving low marks.

Becky Rowley, President of CCC, said the college is making changes to advance academic success.

"Our graduation rate right now is about 20 percent, which is average for community colleges in this state," Rowley said.

With the exception of those who attend classes at CCC for specific certificates or programs, Rowley is enforcing CCC's plans to improve the retention rate for those aiming to attain their associate degree.

"We plan to improve supportive services including, tutoring and Upward Bound for high school students," Rowley said.

She believes that high school students surrounded by a college atmosphere early on increases the likelihood to complete school.

"The more prepared (high school students) are, the more likely they are to get a degree."

Rowley also spoke to the challenges incoming students face that also pose setbacks towards graduation.

"About half of our students test into at least one developmental class," Rowley said. "We're trying to figure out ways to improve academics with students graduating in a shorter amount of time."

Rowley said CCC also has a math emporium, a full-service writing center and extended tutoring hours implemented for students.

"We try to hire people with bachelor and master degrees as tutors," Rowley said. "It's expensive but we think it works better."

The Competitive Workforce also noted cost-effectiveness, efficiency and innovation as areas where New Mexico colleges ranked low.

"I think we're very efficient even when the state has cut back our funding," Rowley said. "We try to analyze how to spend our money and see ways where we can economize where we haven't been in the past. It's an ongoing thing you have to do all the time."

ENMU President Steven Gamble said they have been working hard to improve the areas cited by the report.

According to Gamble, ENMU's retention rate is at 65 percent, up 10 points from 2010.

Gamble said they address areas that cause students to leave and aim to improve.

"We try to make sure the students have the financial aid they're entitled to," Gamble said. "One of the main reasons students dropped out is money."

Gamble says they also hire quality professors to help with retention and workforce preparation.

"(Professors and staff) genuinely care about our students and academic success," Gamble said. "We have a large amount of tutoring for our students."

ENMU also works to keep tuition costs down, having the fourth lowest tuition rates in the southwest, according to Gamble.

"Most schools in New Mexico could do a better job in most of the areas identified and most everyone in the state I know is doing better," Gamble said.

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