By Tony Parra
Eastern New Mexico University administrators received news from the United States Department of Education that its College Success Program would receive $336,121 to help low-income first-generation ENMU students.
Nico Cameron, director of CSP, said she wrote the grant for the funding during the summer and on Monday U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici announced, through a press release, the ENMU CSP program would have its contract extended for another four years.
The ENMU CSP is contracted for 300 ENMU “at-risk” students and the program would receive $336,121 each year for the next four years. The term “at-risk” is applied to students who show indications of dropping out of school in their second semester.
Cameron said the CSP assist students with basic college requirements and to motivate students toward completion of their education.
“The program has been effective in keeping students in school,” Cameron said. “We help with retention. So often first-generation students don’t realize everyone needs help. They think they have to do everything by themselves. Their parents can’t tell them about what to expect at college.”
Cameron said another grant has to be written and the ENMU CSP program must go through the approval process to be awarded for the following four years.
“Providing higher education to minorities and disadvantaged New Mexicans is a worthwhile investment that betters the social and economical development of our state,” Domenici said. “With this assistance more minority, low-income and disabled New Mexicans will be ready to enter the competitive job market and improve their own situation.”
Cameron said the program helps with services such as note-taking skills, financial and personal counseling and mentoring. Betty King-Lowry is the mentor coordinator responsible for approximately 20 ENMU students who are mentors. King-Lowry said the mentors, who have to have a 3.0 GPA, help ENMU freshman and sophomore stay on the right track with academics, grants and financial responsibilities.
“We keep our focus to make a difference in students’ lives,” King-Lowry said. “I live with the differences. I see it every day. We teach the students to be independent learners and to apply their knowledge.”
The ENMU-Portales campus received $336,121, which was the third-highest total for one campus of the 13 New Mexico higher education institutions which received funding. The $3.7 million award was for 13 institutions such as ENMU-Roswell, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas. NMHU received the highest total, $528,117, followed by NMSU with $380,259.
The U.S. Department of Education representatives awarded $235,689 for 175 participants for a five-year contract.
Cameron said two-thirds of the ENMU students who qualify for the program come from families with incomes under $24,000 where neither parent graduated from college.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, only 8 percent of members of first-generation, low-income or disabled population graduate from college. Meanwhile, 79 percent of individuals from upper-income families (more than $67,000) earn at least a bachelor’s degree.