Albuquerque's Higher Education Offerings Expand with Economy

University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
Students change classes at University of New Mexico.

Central New Mexico is a thriving center for higher education that’s continually expanding and adapting not only to meet the needs of its students, but also to respond to the state’s growing economic base.

From the University of New Mexico’s campuses in Albuquerque and Valencia County to New Mexico Highlands University, Central New Mexico Community College, New Mexico Tech in Socorro and branches of New Mexico State University, the region boasts an impressive number of institutions that are not only expanding their cur­ricula to accommodate changes in the region’s economy, they’re also forging unique collaborations so more students can succeed.

Dr. Reed Dasenbrock, New Mexico Secretary of Higher Education, says higher education is thriving in the region because many area colleges and universities are responding to growth in the economy.

Dasenbrock says growth in a number of diverse high-tech economic sectors, including the film industry, aerospace and renewable energy, has led area col­leges and universities to develop new curricula so that they and their students can participate in that expansion. For example, he says, CNMCC has incor­porated a two-year film crew training certificate, while UNM recently added a film and digital media program.

“Our universities are responding to economic changes in a way that other universities aren’t,” Dasenbrock says. “They’ve moved in a given direction partially because there was faculty interest, but also because there was this sense of opportunity in the region.”

David Schmidly, president of the University of New Mexico, says pro­viding broader access to higher education is another driver for growth.

“For New Mexico to compete in the economy, we need more of our citizens to be college educated,” he says. “That’s part of the reason UNM has been opening branch campuses; it provides access to higher education for the people in communities that traditionally do not access it.”

Central New Mexico is also the site of an innovative collaboration that promises to further solidify the region’s strength in higher education. Both CNMCC and UNM have purchased land in Rio Rancho for campus facilities that will operate together.

According to Kathie Winograd, presi­dent of CNMCC, the plan calls for a two-plus-two institution where CNM will administrate the first two years of instruc­tion, with UNM providing the upper division and graduate work. The schools will share buildings and other resources.

“We’ve been able to negotiate a collab­oration to provide a four-year institution to a growing community and provide the taxpayers with a very logical way of getting a low-cost, high-quality education in Rio Rancho,” Winograd says. The facility is scheduled to open by January of 2010.

Of course, cost effectiveness is also a factor in the endeavor, Winograd and Schmidley agree. “By partnering, we’re able to use our unique strengths and bring a full-service higher education venue to Rio Rancho in a much more cost-effective way than if we both went there and competed,” Schmidley says.

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