Emilio Lopez, Jimmy Montoya

Emilio Lopez (left) receives a new Chromebook in April from Northern IT Director Jimmy Montoya. Northern was the first higher education institution to go all online. Northern President Rick Bailey said that was a contributing factor to the College's increase in student enrollment.

    While every other higher education institute in the state posted sliding fall enrollment numbers, Northern New Mexico College showed an 11 percent increase, a solid sign of growth in the college.

    The College showed an increase in student headcount from 1,119 in Fall 2019 to 1,238.

    Northern President Rick Bailey said the College focused on retention and having students stay at Northern through a texting platform and a chat feature on the College website.

    According to the College’s fall 2020 census, the College had a 3 percent increase in total credit hours.

    Though the freshman class is significantly smaller than last year’s - 278 students from 342, there was an increase in dual credit students and 177 non degree students compared to just 45 last year.

    Bailey said the College’s aggressive response to the coronavirus pandemic - as the first college in the state to move classes online in March and to announce that the fall semester would be virtual - reduced uncertainty for prospective students.

    He said apprentices with the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union are now earning college credit.

    The College showed a decrease in the number of sophomores and seniors, according to the College census, but a 25 percent increase in the number of juniors.

    Bailey said the increase will help the College weather the state’s budget crisis and protects jobs at the College.

    “Northern’s enrollment success, in my opinion, did not come at the cost of other institutions,” Bailey said. “We did not pull from other colleges and universities. The real story of why we went up is because we are responding to what our community asked us to do, and are being rewarded for being adaptive to the needs of our community, and what our community has asked us to do.”

    The increase in enrollment comes during the pandemic; a report from the Fitch Ratings Group estimated that enrollment in colleges and universities nationwide could decrease by 5 to 20 percent.

    “All colleges and universities in New Mexico are on the same team,” Bailey said. “We all have the same goals and we are united in our mission to provide more opportunities for New Mexicans to find college pathways, and the more we can do that together, the better.”

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