First impressions of the fall

By Bill Knief

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Fall enrollment at UNM-Taos is always a challenge. It takes a huge amount of coordinated effort to get 1,500 students through the process—put their transcripts in order, register, talk to an advisor, arrange for financial aid and sign up for classes. And although much of this can be accomplished online now, students are notorious for waiting till the last minute to take the plunge.

This year was no exception, and we also had the added challenge of having our primary phone line go down during the height of enrollment. Now that we are well into the second week of classes, the dust is just beginning to settle. For those who are still procrastinating, this is their last chance to sign up for classes. Fall enrollment ends Friday, September 3.

The official breakdown of enrollment figures won’t be available for a couple of weeks, but with the number of students holding steady at around three percent above last year’s total while announced budget cuts for September alone are holding steady at around three percent, it looks like it’s going to be another exciting semester at UNM-Taos.

I asked Patricia Gonzales, enrollment director, for her first impressions. What came to mind immediately was that we had a traffic jam and all the parking lots filled up on the first day of class while Student Government was hosting the entire campus to a free lunch.

“The traffic was bumper to bumper clear back to the armory,” she said. “It was amazing to see all those turn signals. UNM-Taos has really become something special. I’ve been here since 1995 and it’s pretty amazing to see all the growth stages from where we began to where we are now.

“It appears to me that we are continuing to see a lot more of the traditional, younger students on our campus. I don’t have the figures yet, but I’d say that the majority of new students this semester are coming straight out of high school. They are enrolling full time to take advantage of Bridge scholarships so they can get the lottery scholarship next semester. They realize they can get their basics out of the way and later transfer down to main campus in Albuquerque. That makes it much more affordable and it’s nice to be able to live at home. Their friends are coming here so it’s a cool place to be, where before they wanted to leave Taos first and then come back.

“I think our dual credit program that allows high school students to get college credit for classes has a lot to do with this new attitude toward higher education. Students are already on track for getting a certificate or completing an associate program while they are still in high school.

“For the first time in our history we are going to have over a hundred high school students taking dual credit classes on the Klauer campus. Every Friday we’ll see the school buses will roll up from Questa, Penasco and Mesa Vista. By the time those students are ready for college they will already know the campus and be comfortable with college life. That’s a really good thing for our future.”

While Klauer really does seem to be bursting at the seams at times, transportation to and from Klauer is actually getting easier. Thanks to the generosity of Taos County residents, free Regional Transit District bus service is now available from the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church parking lot in the center of town, the county complex on Albright Street and the post office in Ranchos de Taos. Routes are well matched to the four major blocks of instruction including evening classes that let out at 8:30 p.m., and it is expected that ridership will surge as students get used to the comfort, convenience, reliability and economy of public transportation.

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