New Mexico college and university students have the highest rate of student loan default in the nation. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2014 New Mexico’s three-year default rate was 20.8 %, while the national average was 13.7 % (Quintana 2).
Two years previously, New Mexico’s default rate was 12.5 percent, and there is no clear explanation as to why the rates have increased so significantly so quickly. One official believes that the rates have risen because those in default don’t want to speak to representatives or collection agencies. Consequently, they aren’t aware of programs designed to help them to repay their debt.
According to New Mexico Voices for Children, New Mexico students are impeded from graduation by the costs of tuition and child care and by job-related time constraints. Recent figures revealed that while 31% of the lottery scholarship went to students with families making over $90,000 a year, only 16% of those funds went to students whose families earned under $30,000 a year. Bills introduced in the Senate and the House to remedy these inequities in 2015 were “postponed indefinitely.”
Some campuses are making it harder for students to obtain loans and are also requiring students to attend meetings on repayment obligations before they borrow. In addition, some campuses have hired firms to contact students and encourage them to pay their debt down. One campus decided to completely stop offering federal student loans and is attempting to help students find other ways to pay for their education, including scholarships (Quintana 5).
Like campuses in other states, New Mexico’s colleges and universities are in the process of attempting to cut the number of credit hours required for baccalaureate degree programs to 120 credit hours and for associate degree programs to 60 credit hours.
A 2014 report to the Legislative Education Study Committee of the New Mexico State Legislature entitled “Timely Completion at UNM” also suggested creating “semester-by-semester online road maps” that would help students avoid the accumulation of unnecessary credit (Heileman 10). The report also recommends the development of methods for identifying students who have wandered from their degree tracks in order to assist them in completing their degrees.
Currently, the University of New Mexico requires students to take two three-hour composition courses as part of the general education core, while New Mexico State University requires one four-hour composition course and one sophomore level writing course. While a limited number of literature courses are available to students as options for completing the humanities and fine arts portion of the state’s core curriculum, none are required.
Heileman, Gregory L. “Timely Completion at UNM: Excessive Credits and Baccalaureate Degree Program Minimums.” 18 Jun. 2014. Web. 19 May 2016.
“Too Many New Mexicans Cannot Afford to Earn College Credentials.” New Mexico Voices for Children. Feb. 2016. Web. 19 May 2016.
Quintana, Chris. “New Mexico Leads Nation in Student Loan Default Rates.” Santa Fe New Mexican. Santa Fe New Mexican, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.