Bataan Hall

A learning community

By Bill Knief

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At this time of year, when kids all over the country are heading back to school and enrollment for fall semester is in full swing at UNM-Taos, I was reminded of a phrase from the mission statement of the UNM-Taos Literacy Center: “The Literacy Center considers education to be a basic human right throughout the lifespan of a human being.”

A lofty sentiment, surely, but one which forms the very foundation of public education in this country. Because in today’s world, education, even at the post secondary level, is not a luxury to be indulged in by the privileged few. It is everyone’s birthright and a way to lead a positive, prosperous and more satisfying life.

It can take many forms.

One of the highlights of this spring’s commencement ceremony at UNM-Taos, right up there alongside the certificate and degree candidates, was the long line of GED graduates, more than eighty strong. Some of them will be starting college now in the fall, along with area high school graduates. According to Patricia Gonzales, Student Enrollment Director, it wasn’t always that way.

“I’ve been here since 1995, and back then we were basically the type of institution that was set up more for the nontraditional population. I think they were a majority at that point. You rarely saw someone fresh out of high school coming here.

“I think a lot of students had the attitude that they didn’t want to stay here in Taos after they graduated.

“Now we have a lot of students right out of high school, and I feel that much of the credit for this should go to the dual credit program.”

Dual credit is a program popular in New Mexico and throughout the country designed to allow area high school students to get both high school and college credit for classes that qualify for the program. And because it’s all free, parents stand to save hundreds and even thousands of dollars toward their children’s education.

“It’s really a win-win for everyone,” Gonzales explained. “While they’re still in high school students have already started along a path that they can continue when they graduate. They’ve gotten familiar with their community college and they can take advantage of our expansion of services; we have so much to offer now.”

“I just wish parents would be more informed about the dual credit option,” added Henry Trujillo, Senior Student Enrollment Associate. “Sometimes the students don’t pass this information along to their parents, and it can be a terrific jump start to their future. I hate to see them deprived of this great opportunity.”

“Another message we try to get out there about our community college is that it’s a great place to do your basics,” Gonzales explained. “UNM-Taos is a lot less expensive than other post secondary institutions, and students still get that one-on-one attention from instructors that they don’t normally get at big universities where the instructor to student ratio is much higher.

“Another place we serve is where we have students who have not been admitted to UNM in Albuquerque. They can enroll at their community college and after 26 transferable hours, they can transfer right to main campus. In other words, if they didn’t make it the first time, we can give them a second chance.”

In a world of rising prices, $57.00 credit hours, the price you pay at UNM-Taos, are something of a bargain. But if you are 65 or older, the price drops to an unbelievable $5.00 per credit. All a senior citizen has to do is register on or after the first day of classes, verify proof of age, and show that they are New Mexico residents in order to get this special rate.

“I think a lot of people are finding that it’s never too late to go to college,” Gonzales said. “We are seeing parents who are sending their children off to college and saying ‘I’ve devoted my life to raising my kids, and now it’s my turn.’ They come back at 40, 50, 60 years of age. We’ve had students as old as 80, and our average age is 32 years. There’s a lot of feedback these days that it’s all right to improve yourself through education at any age.

“Another factor in being more accessible to the community is that we have started offering more short courses that are a better fit for busy lifestyles. We have students that can’t devote sixteen weeks to a class, but they can do a two week intensive, or they can do weekends. By offering a variety of these courses I think we are attracting people who can’t fit education into a schedule that includes family responsibilities and jobs, let alone the time and expense of going out of town to take a class.

“We do our best to adapt to our students—not the other way around.

“And these days, the student population of UNM-Taos looks a whole lot like the population of Taos County.”

If you’d like to become a part of this learning community, it’s a good idea to register early. Classes fill up, so if you get in early you have a better chance of getting a seat in the class of your choice. On the other hand, if a class doesn’t have enough students, it could be canceled a week before the semester starts, so early enrollment helps assure that it will make.

The fall schedule of classes and our website, http://taos.unm.edu, are good places to go for information, and you can always call 737-6200 or stop by the enrollment office at 115 Civic Plaza Drive to get started. Returning students can enroll online, but new students must register in person.

Classes start August 25. Why not take advantage of a great opportunity? After all, it’s your community college.

About The Bill Knief

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