Dual-credit, remedial education top concerns at town hall meeting

Argen Duncan

Continued support for dual-credit programs, universities’ autonomy and what to do about remedial courses rose to the top of discussion topics at the Higher Education Department Town Hall meeting Monday at Eastern New Mexico University.

The department is collecting public input from around New Mexico for a statewide higher education master plan.

Secretary of Higher Education Viola Florez said a rough draft of the plan would be available online for comment in late September or early October, and she planned to have the plan finished and any legislation needed to implement it drafted by the end of the year.

Dual credit

At the Portales meeting, several people advocated dual-credit classes, which offer high school and college credit.

“We feel like it’s very important for our higher-level students to have the opportunity to be challenged and move to the next level,” Portales Municipal Schools Superintendent Randy Fowler said.

University Writing Program Director Carol Erwin said high school students who take dual-enrollment classes have higher ACT scores and more confidence once they’ve taken the classes. Studies also link dual-credit courses and more preparation for and success in college, she said.

Local autonomy

On another subject, Mayor and Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sharon King said universities having individual boards of regents is critical because their communities have different mindsets, locations and so forth. President Steven Gamble said the local regents could direct the university in carrying out the department’s and state’s priorities.

Remedial courses

Meeting attendees differed on how to work with students who aren’t prepared for college and need remedial courses.

Professor of Education Foundations Cheri Quinn said as long as funding increases were linked to rises in enrollment, universities would recruit students who would be better placed at a community college for remedial classes. She said it seemed wrong to let students take 40 hours of courses without gaining college credit.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Jamie Laurenz said he believed two-year and four-year institutions needed to work together to take care of such students.

“But let’s not deny access (to four-year schools) to people that are unprepared,” Laurenz said.

Health and Human Services Department Chairwoman Suzanne Swift said she has seen students who didn’t succeed at another college graduate from ENMU because faculty and staff helped them.

Erwin said more remedial courses won’t solve the problem.

“The real solution is to get them better prepared at the high school level,” she said, adding that secondary education majors need more support.

Funding

Participants also discussed money.

Florez said performance-based distribution of money was being considered, and Gamble said he didn’t support mission-based funding because then research universities could get money that otherwise would have gone to teaching universities like ENMU.

Professor of Management Gerry Huybregts said every institution wants to offer every program students want, duplicating services.

“We can’t afford it,” he said.

Plan stability

ENMU Regent Marshall Stinnett questioned if the master plan would last when the state administration changed next year after the election of a new governor.

Florez said she thought it would because of the large number of stakeholders and because state agencies connected with the Higher Education Department wanted to see a big picture. Master Plan Task Force Director Barry Cooney said legislators were receptive to the positive change as well.