New enrollment numbers released today show the student-centered approach taken at The University of New Mexico is producing results, even as total student enrollment declined slightly from last year.

Total enrollment at UNM this fall declined 6.5%, mirroring a national trend reported in data released by National Student Clearinghouse Research Center earlier this year. In that report, college enrollment in the U.S. has decreased for the eighth consecutive year.

However, other important Fall 2019 enrollment figures at The University of New Mexico indicate improved stability, engagement, and student success.

First year student enrollment dipped this fall by just 2.2 percent, a decrease of only 59 students out of nearly 2,600 new first year students at UNM. Compared to last year’s large drop in first year enrollment, this indicates that new first-year student enrollment has stabilized. 

The rate of full-time first year students returning for their sophomore year also improved in Fall 2019. The entering cohort last year persisted at a rate of 77.27 percent into this year’s sophomore class, compared with 73.63 percent for the entering cohort two years ago. This is an improvement of 3.64 percentage points from the 2017 to 2018 cohort.

As a result of concentrated campus-wide efforts to improve student success, persistence rates of African American, American Indian, and Hispanic students at UNM also improved; American Indian student persistence increased from 61.74 to 72.53 percent (+ 10.79 increase), African American student persistence increased from 60.26 to 75.71 percent (+ 15.45 increase), and Hispanic student persistence increased from 72.85 to 76.39 percent (+3.54 increase).

This increased persistence is due to the work of staff and faculty across campus, including the collaborative work of the Division of Enrollment Management with American Indian Student Services, African American Student Services and El Centro de la Raza on retention initiatives, including help with financial aid completion and targeted efforts to create community for success. These efforts will continue this coming year in an effort to make an even stronger impact on UNM’s new cohort of students and help retain them after the first year and through graduation.

“Our current retention rates, especially in traditionally underrepresented and underserved student populations, show that we are succeeding in our efforts to provide an outstanding undergraduate education in New Mexico,” said UNM Provost James Paul Holloway. “There’s more to do, but we also are encouraged by this growing success, and thankful to the staff and faculty who help our students in so many ways.”

For the first time in UNM’s history more than one half of the cohort is graduating in five years. The University had another year of record 5-year (51%) and 6-year graduation rates (54%).

“Graduating more students in a shorter period of time is something to celebrate. As these students move more quickly from student to college graduate, they are even better able to contribute to their own families and grow the economy of New Mexico,” said Holloway.

Meeting the needs and expectations of students with diverse backgrounds and priorities has been a priority and focus for UNM, with over 80% in-state students. UNM’s students come from every county in the state, as well as nearly every U.S. state, and close to 100 countries around the world. Sixty-one percent of UNM undergraduates self-identify as ethnic minorities.

Recent rankings compiled by Business Insider listed The University of New Mexico as 21st among the ‘50 most underrated colleges in America evaluating several career and outcome-based metrics for each of the institutions – including cost of attendance and financial aid, career outcomes and overall return on investment.  Last week UNM was ranked #15 (tied) in Ethnic Diversity on U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Colleges diversity index among national universities.

“Building enrollment is a critical focus for UNM, and we are taking proactive measures to bring more students to the Lobo experience,” said Vice President for Enrollment Management Dan Garcia. “We see growth in our honors classes, and we are working to increase opportunities for first and second year students to engage in research experiences. The success we’ve continued to have in retaining and graduating our students reflects the amazing educational environment that UNM has built to educate students at the most diverse research university in the world.”