Klauer Campus

Enrollment looks good

By Bill Knief

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The official enrollment numbers just came in for spring semester and they are up from 1,231 in 2007 to 1,255 in 2008. Total credit hours have not been tabulated yet, but it is expected that they, too, will be up by a point or two.

Not exactly earthshaking news, but consider this: our UNM funding level is based on enrollment and credit hours, so even a slight downturn over a couple of semesters can upset the precarious balance between available budget and services provided, courses offered, students served and faculty hired.

Then there’s the pride factor: in recent years UNM-Taos has been one of only a handful of community colleges in New Mexico and around the country to consistently increase enrollment. We, too, were off a bit last fall, but now, despite the fact that we are the youngest and the smallest (by square footage) UNM branch campus, we are once again the exception to the troubling national trend toward dwindling enrollment for institutions of higher education.

The exception, not the rule—just as one might expect from a Taos community college.

DIGGING DEEP

In the next two to three weeks construction is slated to begin on the long-awaited water line and infrastructure projects that will get our shelled classroom building open and guarantee the viability of the build out of the UNM-Taos Klauer campus.

According to a memo from Doug Harned, project manager for RMCI, Inc., the firm that won the bid to put in the water line and onsite infrastructure, actual construction will start either the week of April 14 or April 21.

Tom Higgins, project superintendent, explained in a phone interview that the sewer line bid has yet to be awarded, but that RMCI, Inc. would be putting eighteen of its own people, not including subcontractors, on the project to lay upwards of 12,000 feet of ten inch water line in a five foot deep trench, put in 2,300 feet of concrete-encased three phase electric power and run about 1,300 feet of single phase conduit for the Los Cordovas power upgrade. In addition, by August they expect to construct water, sewer and gas tie-ins at Klauer and do the site grading for additional parking lots. It’s going to be a busy summer.

REGISTRATION FOR SUMMER CLASSES ABOUT TO START

Believe it or not, the summer and fall 2008 class schedules are already in the proofreading stage, and prospective students will be able to start enrolling for summer classes by the end of April. It’s time to start thinking about summer courses ranging from computer science to fly fishing and everything in between.

STUDENT SUCCESS

Student success comes in many shapes and sizes. One student might be pursuing an advanced degree while the person sitting next to him or her is taking the same class simply because they want to learn more about a certain topic. Both the degree-seeker and the lifelong learner are welcome members of the UNM-Taos learning community. “Open enrollment” is what it’s called, and it is part of the philosophy that makes the student body of our community college as richly diverse in skill levels, age, gender and cultural heritage as the widely dispersed and unique communities we serve.

“As long as students meet the minimum requirements, they can come in and take whatever they want,” Aimie Chavez-Aguilar, Academic Student Success Director, explained. “If they take as many as 24 hours non-degree, they then become eligible for financial aid and can begin work on a degree or certificate.”

Understandably, this strong emphasis on diversity requires a broad range of support services, and that’s what Student Success is all about.

“What we are best known for is advising and tutoring,” Chavez-Aguilar said. “But we are actively involved in anything that helps students navigate the system. We oversee student government, clubs, all other student activities. We oversee Compass placement so that students get placed in appropriate classes. I do conflict resolution and act as a neutral third party; an advocate for students. I oversee accessibility services, which are special accommodations for students who have physical, learning or emotional disabilities. We review curricular requirements for graduation as well as producing the graduation ceremony itself. We conduct new student orientation, student workshops, student—anything.”

Anything, that is, except counseling.

“There is a misconception around that,” Chavez-Aguilar explained. “Everyone on my staff including myself has a master’s degree, so we are eminently qualified for what we do. But counseling requires specific training and certification. We advise students regarding academic and career goals: what the student wants to do. We take a look at their academic skill set and then, together, we work out a plan on how to reach those goals.

“We sometimes find that new students are academically unprepared, and we have them take the Compass placement exam to determine the level they are working at in the areas of reading, math and writing. Then we work out a plan for how to deal with any deficiencies. I like to think of this as putting together a roadmap for success—a plan of action that will get them to their goal.

“I don’t like to use the word ‘remedial’. There is a stigma attached to it that is unfair. People think they must be dumb if they have to take a preparatory class, when the exact opposite is true. We have found that students who make full use of our advising services and take part in what we call Introductory Studies actually do better in college level courses than the average, because they have that firm foundation to work from. It has nothing to do with intelligence—it has everything to do with a person’s unique skill set, and we can help improve that.

“Another misconception is the role we play in the GED program. We provide support for dropout students—we do not recruit them. We are not in the business of taking students away from where they should be in the school district. Ideally everyone should graduate with a high school diploma. But things happen; things we can’t control. Family happens. Life happens. What we can do is offer an option. Judy Hofer directs the Literacy Center that prepares students to take their GED, and we administer the exam. This division of responsibility is required by state law, so that we always have a fair and balanced program.

“Finally, we have a Student Success Manager, Kathy Spess, who oversees our CASA tutoring as well as the Compass testing. CASA, the Center for Academic Success and Achievement, is a peer tutoring program that hires around a dozen student employees to give free, one-on-one or small group help with specific subjects. These hard working tutors often develop a special rapport with the students they serve which is extremely important. Some students will continue to come back and see you as a point of contact. When they do that they are more involved, and they will be more successful.”

What would the Academic Student Success Director like to see in the future?

“Right now it is optional for a new student to seek an advisor. But as I understand it, as early as the fall 2008 semester, any degree-seeking student will be required to take advantage of academic advising until they complete 26 credit hours. I have seen this work at UNM main campus, and I believe it will work here.

“The other thing is that we need to start talking to kids earlier about higher education. It needs to be a natural continuation of their education and a way to be successful in life.”

About The Bill Knief

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