Higher Education in New Mexico: A College on Every Corner?

Higher Education in New Mexico: A College on Every Corner?

(Albuquerque) A new report from the Rio Grande Foundation sheds some needed light on the sheer scope and magnitude of New Mexico’s higher education system. According to, “Higher Education in New Mexico: A Chicken in Every Pot, a Car in Every Garage, a College on Every Corner,” New Mexico’s four-year institutes of higher education have an astounding 38 campuses combined while the state’s two-year campuses and junior colleges have 27.

There are a total of 12 campuses to choose from in the Albuquerque Metropolitan area alone. There are 9 campuses in or within a one hour drive of Las Cruces.

As this study points out, the proliferation of campuses is a symptom of larger problems within New Mexico’s overall education system. Measured against other states, New Mexico:

• Dedicates a far greater percentage of personal incomes to higher education ($17.39 per $1,000 in New Mexico while the national average was about $7.00;
• Graduates fewer of its students than other states (New Mexico ranks 46th in the nation);
• Retains first-year students (for continued schooling) at the worst rate in the nation;
• Demands taxpayers disproportionately foot the bill for higher education (2nd-highest nationally); and
• Asks less than all but one other state of students, the direct beneficiaries of higher education, when it comes to tuition and fees.

Rio Grande Foundation president and co-author of the study Paul Gessing noted, “These data point to a system in which resources have been allocated in a scattershot manner.” Gessing continued, saying, “Taxpayer dollars are being spread out over too many campuses that are trying to serve disparate interests and expensive. Future cuts targeted at higher education in New Mexico may be necessary, but this reduction can be turned into a positive for higher education if resources are re-allocated in ways that produce excellence rather than serving all-comers.”

Co-author William Patrick Leonard noted that, “Areas of excellence do exist in New Mexico’s higher education system, especially at New Mexico Tech and the New Mexico Military Institute. Policymakers need to study these success stories to better understand how the overall system might be improved.”