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University president talks regulation issues, future prospects

 

October 19, 2015

Steven Gamble

Editor’s note: Eastern New Mexico University President Steven Gamble answered questions as part of a periodic series checking up on the general state of higher education in New Mexico.

You had a visit from Congressman Steve Pearce last week to talk about higher education issues. What kind of issues did you fill the congressman in on as far as higher education?

We discussed regulation of higher education to the extent of that there seems to be just more scrutiny on higher education than ever before.

I think that’s happening with anything that deals with government these days. There just seem to be more and more reports to file, more and more oversight, more and more accountability and more and more justification. I’m not saying it is not needed at all, because obviously we sure do need to be accountable to the tax payers who fund what we’re doing. But it does just take more time and effort out of my day and other people’s day to comply with everything that comes our way. A lot of it tends to be redundant. In other words, we’re answering this question for one group and another group asks almost the same question. It would be nice if there could maybe be data sharing to a greater extent than there is today. Sometimes we jump through that same hoop a lot more than once or twice.

Most of the meeting was with the two young ladies who put together the Grace program. They were in here for the whole meeting and talked about right-to-life issues and other issues. The congressman was very supportive of their project and was going to see how he could assist them.

link Steven Gamble

Students seem to struggle with getting pell grants. Is this an area you feel needs to be changed in the way it’s done?

No, I honestly don’t. I think it goes about as smoothly as it possibly can understanding that the Federal government controls that program; we don’t. What upsets a number of people is called verification. In other words, they fill out their forms and send them in and the federal government then says we want verification that this is correct. They don’t require that of all the applicants, but I imagine it’s somewhere around 50 percent, maybe even more than that. That slows them down, especially for someone who is submitting their financial aid within a week or two of school starting. Now they have to go round up all this additional information to prove this is correct on the pell application. It slows them down. We have more than 40 percent of our student population on the pell grant, and it’s also a very generous program, and it’s a grant. They don’t have to pay it back.

You attended a governor’s conference for higher education in Albuquerque earlier this month. What did you learn there?

It was mostly a re-emphasis of what we already knew of the direction the governor and the secretary of higher education are taking higher education. It was about accountability; it was about trying to make sure students graduate at the soonest opportunity instead of dragging it out over five or six years. We were encouraged to take our degree programs from 128 hours for a normal bachelor’s degree down to 120 hours. We’ve already done that. I think we have approximately eight degree programs on the undergraduate level that are above 120 hours, and they’re all in teacher education, and they’re crediting agency says they have to have this, this and this to be credentialed as a teacher, and that takes them above 120 (hours).

They also talked to us about a new way of advising. It’s an approach that has already evolved over time at most schools, but it’s probably needs to be more formalized. For example, if someone comes in and they know they want to be a science major, but they can’t decide if it’s biology or chemistry, don’t make them decide right away. If they know for sure, that’s good, but otherwise, they come up with a direction for that person in the sciences. That way in a year, if they decide which one it is going to be, they are not going to lose any credit because they took the approach of taking courses that can apply to either degree program. But that won’t work very well if you’re an English major then you apply to be a physics major, but it does help a lot if it’s history and political science or the sciences.

Compiled by Managing Editor Alisa Boswell

 
 

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