By Aaron Stiles
The High Tech Consortium of Southern New Mexico met on August 21 to hear an address from Dan Howard, NMSU provost and executive president.
Howard addressed the issues of enrollment and student retention at NMSU. He said NMSU’s current enrollment decline is due to the fact freshman from 2010 and 2011, both large groups, are now graduating with their bachelor degrees. He said these particular groups of incoming freshmen had been considerably larger than subsequent groups.
Overall, enrollment in NMSU for the 2015-2016 is up about 6.5 percent from last year, Howard said. Retention rates are currently around 73 percent a year, but Howard said that number is expected to leap to 80 percent in the next year because of NMSU’s newly implemented Navigator Program.
This program will “proactively intervene with freshmen,” Howard said.
Freshmen will be assigned peer mentors, called Navigators, with whom they will actively correspond, build friendships, and develop support systems to aid with anything from directions around campus to tips about college life and classes.
Navigators have a wide range of degree experience, from graduate students to undergraduate students, in the hopes of having a diverse and successful team.
The Navigator steps in when a student exhibits early warning signs of dropping out. One of the biggest of these signs is not going to class. Navigators will find out what is causing the absences “from a place of non-judgment.”
The hope is that, by having someone who cares about how they are doing in school, freshmen will be less likely to drop out.
When Dr. Howard was asked how attendance can better be monitored, he mentioned that currently in Hardman and Jacobs Halls, freshman classes are currently having attendance measured by ID scanners in the classrooms. Students scan their IDs upon entering class in order to record attendance. This system will likely be used by most classes in the future, Howard said.
Howard went on to talk about research funding at NMSU. He said, in 2014, NMSU received $140 million in sponsored research contracts, which is lower than 2010’s $200 million. He said one of the biggest reasons for the decline was the loss of NMSU’s Physical Science Laboratory’s contract with NASA, a $20-$30-million-contract, in 2014.
Despite this decline, Howard said NMSU is still one of the top schools without a medical school in terms of research funding. Howard said this year NMSU currently has $115 million in research contracts, and that the number is rising, as NMSU recently received an $85 million contract that will move NMSU into the realm of Cyber-security.
Further, Howard said NMSU is a leader in research in the area of insect-borne diseases and understanding how they are transmitted, which makes the research conducted here a great asset to the country and the scientific community.