By Bill Knief
Most of the staff at UNM-Taos wear more than one hat. Anita Bringas is the UNM-Taos Administrative Officer and the Title V Grant administrator. She handles data and institutional research for the branch and files reports to the state, the federal government, the Higher Education Department and the Public Education Department. In addition, she compiles the Institutional Effectiveness Report each semester, which is more of an internal document that makes it possible to track enrollment and demographic trends at UNM-Taos over the past five years. The IE Report is a favorite of mine because it creates an accurate profile of the college, its programs, policies and procedures, and although the finished product will be on our website (taos.unm.edu) toward the end of July, I asked Anita to give us a preview some of the more significant data.
“The IE Report is a comprehensive snapshot of how we have been doing over the past five years,” she began, “and this year, because it is our 10th anniversary of becoming a UNM branch campus, we will also include 10 year comparisons in some areas. The full report is all public information and will include an executive summary, a brief history of the campus, enrollment and degree data, and detailed demographic information.
“Our enrollment this past spring semester was 1,526, including dual credit, degree seeking and non-degree seeking students. Now if we break that down, we see we had 368 dual credit students, or 24 percent of our enrollment. That’s an impressive number of high school students able to take college level courses and receive both high school and college credit for them. This program is paid for by the state, so by the time these students get to their freshman year in college, they’ve already completed several of their core curriculum courses. That represents a considerable savings in both time and money, plus they have already become familiar with the college routine by then.
“There were 948 students working on a degree track last semester, which is fully 81 percent of the total. But the really remarkable statistic is that in spring of 2011 degree seekers were only 63 percent of the whole student body. So in just two years degree seeking students increased by almost 20 percent, and if you go back five years, to 2008, they represented only 43 percent of the total. So in five years we have almost doubled the number of students seeking a degree.”
Bringas credited UNM-Taos having more advisors and better advising for much of the increase, and noted that it not only indicated better use of limited financial aid, but was also one of the criteria in the new funding formula that determines state funding of higher education.
“We still offer personal interest classes,” Bringas added, “but students are far more serious about completing their degrees these days. That’s really important.
“Now when you look at a breakdown of ethnicity for last semester, we see that 58 percent of our student body was Hispanic, which closely matches the percentage in our service area. But what is more remarkable is that we are recognized as an official HSI–Hispanic Serving Institution—by the federal government, which qualifies institutions with at least 25 percent Hispanic enrollment for Title V funding. Title V is designed to increase enrollment, retention and graduation rates for Hispanic students. However, the intent of the grant and the way we are utilizing those funds is for capacity building, which means increasing the number of advisors, increasing their professional development, expanding the free CASA Tutoring program, working with peer-to-peer tutors, creating math and writing labs, providing exam prep and other workshops, all of which benefit every student at UNM-Taos. That’s what we mean by capacity building.
“Another interesting demographic is gender. Historically, our enrollment, and this follows a national trend in community colleges, has been made up of mostly females. However, the number of male students at UNM-Taos has been slowly and steadily increasing in recent years, and we went from 37 percent to 39 percent this spring over last spring. I think this shows that in a community like ours, male students are beginning to get the support they need to get into school and continue with it, as opposed to the many other things they could be doing that aren’t as productive or fulfilling.”
And finally, I asked Bringas to give us a quick comparison between that first year as a branch campus, 2003, and our last full academic year.
“For the academic year 2003-2004, our head count was 2,415 students taking 16,882 credit hours. Now if we jump to the academic year 2012-2013, our head count was 3,228 and credit hours were 27,606. In other words we increased enrollment by 813 students and 10,784 credit hours in ten short years. This shows that we not only have more students, but we have more students on average taking more core classes toward a degree. This has enormous social and economic implications for our community.”