Final enrollment numbers are not in yet, but they’re looking very positive so far, according to Patricia Gonzales, Student Enrollment Director at UNM-Taos. That is good news for everyone, because a lot depends on favorable numbers: they’re a sign of health in the communities of northern New Mexico that are served by UNM-Taos, but they also translate into operating capital for the college. A sustained drop in the fall head count or reduction in spring semester credit hours means a reduction in funding. And once an institution goes down that path, it can be increasingly difficult to reverse course.
Strong enrollment is also beneficial to the individual student, according to Raven Pierce, who has enrolled in Alex Chavez’s Advanced Website Design class. “It can be hard to get enough students to enroll in these electives that are so specialized,” he said. “And then if the class doesn’t make, everybody loses out. But we’re starting the semester with fifteen students. That’s great—it means that there are going to be more cool new classes.”
Joel Whitehead, Academy of Business and Computer Technologies director, agrees. “I’m feeling a lot of enthusiasm out there this semester. Last semester even some of our core courses didn’t make, but now I’m seeing classrooms filled with students who want to learn.”
Renee Barela-Gutierrez, head of the Liberal Arts Academy, observed, “Sometimes it has been hard to get seven students to enroll in my Introduction to Marketing class. This semester we had to cut it off at seventeen. I love to see all the new faces. It seems to me that we have a lot more first time enrollees this semester.”
Enrollment Director Gonzales concurs. “That’s one thing I like about fall semester. We seem to be seeing more and more students fresh out of high school, and that didn’t used to happen so much; we didn’t have as many traditional students as we do today, and I just have to think that is a very healthy trend for this community.”
Gonzales also feels that the dual credit program, where high school students have the option of taking classes that get them high school and college level credit at the same time, has contributed to the growing interest in post secondary education. “It gives them a jump start on their college career. It lets them know that they can do it, too.” She continued, “Dual credit can also save their families a lot of money. I just had two moms come in and hand deliver their children’s registration forms to make sure they got into the program. That never used to happen.”
Final numbers for regular enrollment and dual credit will not be in until after September 15, the census date used as the official count for the semester. We will see then how well everyone’s predictions have held up.
Meanwhile, Gonzales has some ideas about how to streamline the bulky enrollment process. “Some institutions, including UNM, are going completely paperless. That wouldn’t work up here, but you can enroll online even if you are a first time student, after you get a Lobo ID and password. I know how frustrating it can be to have to wait in line, or enroll and then find out that your class hasn’t filled. That can be serious, because your financial aid can be effected, and sometimes these problems just can’t be helped. But my advice to students is to register early. You miss the crowds, you have the largest possible choice of classes, and you help classes fill. But what always happens is, everyone waits till the last minute. Did you know that you can enroll for spring semester right after Thanksgiving? But watch—everybody’s going to wait till January!”
“NOW I CAN GIVE BACK WHAT WAS GIVEN TO ME”
Without much fanfare or press coverage, UNM-Taos made a bit of history a couple of weeks ago when it hired Mildred Young as their new Student Success Associate. The soft spoken Young, a Taos Pueblo citizen and Taos High graduate with a certificate in general studies and a Bachelor of University Studies, will specialize in work with Native American students. She is currently shadowing fellow advisors Damon Montclare and Mario Suazo, teaching at both Taos Day School and the Voyager reading program at the middle school, and instructing in the Tiwa language at the Pueblo. In her “spare” time she tutors sixth through eighth graders in an after school program. When there is space, she will have an office at the Red Willow Learning Center at Taos Pueblo.
“When I see people at Taos Pueblo they ask how I got through school, and what do they have to do to get into college,” she said. “I tell them come here and start asking questions. That’s what I did. The UNM-Taos team is a great help. When I came back as a non-traditional student, from the first day everyone was so willing to help me, with class scheduling, advising—everything.
“Now I can give back what was given to me.”
SCHOOL BOND ELECTION
On September 23 there will be a special bond election for Taos Municipal Schools which if passed will provide resources for every public and charter school in the district. Without an increase in taxes, this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to give back a little of what was given to us.