New Mexico First seeks school’s priorities

By Paula Cronic: PNT Staff Writer

Five recommendations for improving the state’s higher education were the main focus at Friday’s New Mexico First community meeting at Eastern New Mexico University.

New Mexico First Associate Director Heather Balas met with nearly 40 Portales and Clovis community and business leaders and educators to discuss the recommendations, stating education and economic needs are issues the group would soon address.

“Here in Portales you are thinking about that because the Cannon expansion has indicated that you’re going to have significantly more people in the community that are going to have educational needs,” Balas said.

Balas went on to say it’s important to create labor protection for students in the event they might want to choose jobs that will enable them to stay in the area.

“Let’s get as many of our young people as we can the knowledge about what kind of jobs they can have if they want to stay here and what kind of education they will need to have for those jobs,” she said.

New Mexico First is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that brings together citizens from all over the state to yearly Town Hall meetings in order to develop recommendations for a chosen topic.

The group also holds two to five smaller community meetings, like the one held Friday.

ENMU President Steven Gamble and Clovis Community College President John Neibling were among those attending.

“I think it’s great that they don’t just get the information from the big Town Hall and keep it to themselves,” Gamble said. “They travel around the state to educate people on what the Town Hall is about and what the recommendations are, in this case, on higher education.”

The four other recommended subjects included higher education vision and systems, funding and governance, technology and communications.

Balas said there was also an emphasis in the last Town Hall meeting on school performance, enrollment and increasing financial aid for college students.

Former governor Garrey Carruthers and Business Roundtable Chair Mike DeWitte co-chair the implementation team that consists of 43 citizens from across the state.

They are working to advance recommendations to lawmakers relevant to the topic for the next 12 to18 months.