In an Albuquerque Journal guest column entitled “Rethinking remedial education is essential to student success,” University of New Mexico (UNM) College of Arts and Sciences Dean Mark Peceny announced that UNM has spent millions of dollars on faculty salaries,curriculum development, and instructional space to make it possible for students needing remediation to enroll in college-level courses and earn credit toward their degrees more quickly. UNM has developed a stretch course for the first college-level writing course, which basically allows students to complete the course in two semesters instead of one. In addition, UNM is piloting a studio program where underprepared students enroll in one extra credit hour to support the college-level writing course. Dean Peceny explains that these options make it possible for a student who would have taken developmental or remedial courses at Central New Mexico Community College to begin with the first college-level freshman writing course at UNM.
While stretch and studio courses are not new in large public universities –the success and challenges of similar models are examined in Steve Lamos’ Interests and Opportunities: Race, Racism, and University Writing Instruction in the Post-Civil Rights Era (University of Pittsburg, 2011), the University of New Mexico’s investment in supporting underprepared students and in integrating them into freshman level writing courses represents a shift in part driven by New Mexico Higher Education Department’s performance goals, available on the NMHED website. These goals are aimed at reforming remediation, increasing undergraduate degree and certificate completion, improving retention rates, and decreasing the number of hours required for degree or certification completion. If other universities in the state follow suit, there should be a significant decrease in the number of students enrolling in developmental/remedial writing and math courses at neighboring community colleges. Since UNM is New Mexico’s flagship university, it seems likely that many two and four year schools around the state will strongly consider piloting similar alternatives to remediation for students in English and Math.