Since 2011, Governor Martinez worked to help more students graduate on time and prepared to take jobs our state community needs. Her reforms were a tremendous success. In fact, the four-year graduation rate doubled at the University of New Mexico during her term as Governor.

She enacted higher education reforms that include performance funding to incentivize degree completion at our higher education institutions, a transfer credit overhaul to make sure students receive credit that counts toward their degree if they change schools, and a statewide AP credit policy endorsed by our public institutions to give high school students greater clarity in predicting what college credit their AP exam score earns them. Under Governor Martinez’ leadership, New Mexico announced its first-ever state attainment goal called “Route to 66,” setting our state on a path toward 66% percent of working-age New Mexicans holding a post-secondary credential. 

A Higher Standard for Higher Education in New Mexico

Statewide Attainment Goals

In 2013, Georgetown University projected that 65% of jobs available in the United States would require at least some postsecondary education by 2020. However, as of 2014 only 34.6% of New Mexicans aged 25 to 64 had a two-year degree or higher. Understanding that this education gap would severely hinder New Mexico’s economic competitiveness, Governor Martinez announced the state’s first-ever state attainment goal in 2016 through Executive Order 2016-037. The “Route to 66” goal, places our state on a path toward having 66% percent of working-age New Mexicans holding a post-secondary credential by 2030. To meet this ambitious goal, the New Mexico Higher Education Department put in place its trifecta of reform to help students obtain credentials more efficiently and with less cost to both the students and taxpayers. In achieving this ambitious goal, New Mexicans will be better prepared for the workforce of the future, which will ensure economic and societal wellbeing for generations to come.

Performance Funding for Higher Education

Facing the largest structural deficit in state history, Gov. Martinez came into office with a clear mandate to restore the fiscal health of New Mexico. This was especially true for higher education, where the state’s colleges and universities cost taxpayers nearly $900 million annually. In spite of the significant funding allocated to higher education, New Mexicans were not receiving their money’s worth in regards to higher education in 2010. Compared to neighboring states and national benchmarks, New Mexico’s colleges were retaining and graduating significantly fewer students. To address these issues, Gov. Martinez instructed the New Mexico Higher Education Department (HED) to develop a new funding formula for the state’s colleges and universities that allocated a portion of an institution’s funding based on its students’ success. Working in conjunction with higher education institutions, the Legislature, and the private sector, the HED installed the new outcomes-based formula in 2013. Since then, spending on higher education in New Mexico has been reigned in, yet institutions are graduating nearly 30% more students than they did in 2011. Additionally, more minority, first-generation, and low-income students are graduating now than ever before in the state’s history. New Mexico’s higher education system is now more cost efficient, effective, and something in which all New Mexicans should be proud.

Bridging the Gap between High School and College

In order to achieve the state’s “Route to 66” attainment goal, Gov. Martinez instructed the PED and HED to identify policy mechanisms that would have a positive impact on a student’s transition between high school and college. This collaboration resulted in several significant policy initiatives that have allowed thousands of New Mexicans to successfully transition to college. Foremost, the HED and PED worked with higher education institutions to align dual credit programs with national standards in order to ensure that the college courses during high school served to both prepare students for the college environment while also counting towards the student’s college program. Additionally, the HED and higher education institutions worked together to develop an Advanced Placement (AP) matrix. This matrix created more transparency for students around how New Mexico’s colleges and universities accepted AP courses and how these courses counted towards a student’s degree. Lastly, for those students who had graduated or left high school, the departments challenged higher education institutions to identify innovative ways to address the remedial needs of students. To achieve this, HED established a task force to study remediation in New Mexico. This task force developed recommendations for the implementation of alternative remediation programs, including co-requisite remediation, which allows students to simultaneously complete remediation and college level “gateway courses.”

Higher Education Trifecta

Foremost among Gov. Martinez’s higher education priorities was the desire to remove the barriers to student success. To achieve this, the New Mexico Higher Education Department (HED) developed the Trifecta of Reform, a series of common-sense higher education reforms that included the implementation of a statewide common course numbering system, the development of a modernized general education core, and the implementation of statewide meta-majors.

In developing the common course numbering system, the HED was able to oversee the review of over 10,000 course syllabi in 106 academic disciplines in less than eighteen months by creating core teams of faculty subject matter experts. Based on the collective feedback of the committee faculty members, the majority of general education courses were reviewed in order to achieve alignment in course names, numbers, and student learning outcomes. The resulting consensus that was built among the faculty and institutional leadership resulted in an overall increase in the quality of courses offered in New Mexico.

Next, and after two years of intensive study and design, the HED General Education Steering Committee, comprised of institutional faculty and provosts, adopted a new general education model in 2017. The new general education curriculum shifted focus to the building of essential skills that helps students develop strong transferable skills which prepare them for multiple career paths. The final approved general education courses included essential skills such as communication, critical thinking, information literacy, quantitative reasoning, and personal and social responsibility.

Lastly, new degree mapping analytics, developed in conjunction with the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Design and Innovation, were implemented to analyze the degree programs of the state’s public higher education institutions. The analytics program grouped degree programs based on similar lower division course requirements into meta-majors. These meta-majors allow students to explore multiple paths, while still working toward on-time completion of a degree. They also allow undecided college students to begin coursework within an area of interest while maintaining the ability to then move between other degree plans within the meta-major.

Overall, the HED’s Trifecta of Reform has provided all New Mexican students with the ability to efficiently transfer between institutions without loss of credits and without incurring unnecessary student debt. Because of this, Gov. Martinez and her administration have established a foundation for student success for all New Mexicans in generations to come.