With SATs, GPAs, campus tours and recruitment fairs, so much effort is spent on getting into college, but what isn’t so frequently addressed is getting out.

The business of a University encompasses the entire continuum of learning, not just of academic preparation, but preparing students to entering society as productive and engaged citizens.

At UNM, academic planning and the initiatives that have been developed are paying special attention to the effort required for students to complete their degrees in a shorter amount of time, with the least amount of debt, and with the tools necessary for lifelong learning and success.

Research has shown that a focus on the first year is crucial to retaining students. One way in which UNM is working toward keeping students academically engaged is by identifying the courses keeping them from progressing, and developing innovative ways to assist students to advance.

The Math Learning Lab (MaLL) was one of President Bob Frank’s first initiatives when he arrived in 2012.  The MaLL provides a way for students to pass their first math courses at their own pace, but guaranteeing that they became highly proficient in learning the necessary material.

“Attacking the highest fail-rate courses, such as Math 120, is helping us in solving bottleneck problems,” said Provost Chaouki Abdallah. “If we help the students pass the courses where they get stuck, we can have a large impact on student retention and their success.”

Where the Office of Academic Affairs is also taking a critical look is a student’s senior year. The longer a student takes to get their degree, the less likely they are to graduate. Changes such as reducing the number of credits to graduate to 120 credits, enhancing student advisement and connecting students to practical professional experience before they graduate are all ways in which students have a better chance at completing that final year in under six years.

At UNM, the needle is beginning to move. UNM has the highest Hispanic third semester retention rate in its history, at 80.1 percent, as well as the highest 4- and 5- year graduation rates, at 16.7 percent and 39.7 percent respectively.

“Our first priority is student success,” said Abdallah. “We have invested in programs that are paying off not only in better retention and graduation rates, but also in better quality of programming and student support services. While not yet satisfied with our retention and graduation rates, we  must maintain the positive momentum of the last few years.”