In January of 2016, all New Mexico two and four year campuses received notification from NMHED of new initiatives meant to improve graduation rates, transfer articulation, and success for students in developmental programs. These initiatives include reform of the state’s general education curriculum, creating co-requisite remediation and math pathways, developing meta-majors and transfer modules, and establishing statewide common course numbering.
On January 15, 2016, NMHED hosted a webcast where Dr. Barbara Damron, NMHED cabinet secretary, briefly explained these initiatives and answered questions from faculty and administrators from around the state. In the webcast, Dr. Damron emphasized the importance of NMHED’s role in working with the state’s K—12 system and business and workforce development entitiesand in facilitating cohesion among New Mexico’s 32 public institutions of higher education.
She pointed out that theinitiativesare meant to address New Mexico’s low graduation rates and “challenging student democraphics,” including students who may be hungry or homeless, students whose needs the general education requirements established decades ago may not be currently meeting. A statewide steering committee will assemble faculty committees in different subject areas to align 80% of student learning outcomes in comparable courses, which will then be assigned common course numbers. To expedite this process, syllabi will be collected from all campuses and all existing objectives will be entered into one giant matrix.
Damron assured faculty that the state has no intentions of standardizing curricula but is relying on faculty to successfully align courses and to determine the size of the revised general education core. Creating meta-majors will involve examining best practice models to develop groups of courses that will serve students exploring majors in similar fields to prevent loss of credit upon transfer. Damron admitted that these initiatives will additionally burden faculty around the state; she acknowledged that they will not be remunerated for participating in the process. However, she urged all faculty to get involved in helping these initiatives succeed for the benefit of students within the state.
Damron acknowledged that once competencies for common courses are established, campuses can design curricula to meet them any way they choose. However, she affirmed that students will be required to show they can meet these competencies before progressing. Further, Damron threatened that the state legislature might decide to cut funding for higher education if outlined goals aren’t met by the deadlines.