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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU sees double-digit growth in graduate student enrollment

A preliminary reporting of the New Mexico State University graduate student enrollment reflects a marked increase of 14.5 percent from last year, with much of the growth concentrated in the fields of education and health care where demand for professionals with master's degrees is high, university administrators say.

ber of students enrolled in graduate-level programs as of Aug. 29, the 10th day of classes in this fall semester, was 3,346, according to Gladys De Necochea, vice president for student services and dean of students. That compares with 2,922 at the same time last year.

"I'm very pleased because I think it shows the role we're playing in economic development in the region," said Graduate School Dean Linda Lacey.

Lacey said the growth is due in part to "a collaborative effort across campus, with the academic departments and distance learning programs being proactive and recruiting the very best students." It also reflects a national trend, in that graduate school applications and enrollments tend to rise when the economy is not doing well, she said.

The largest percentage increases are seen in the university's College of Health and Social Services, where graduate enrollment has increased 36 percent, and the College of Education, where the growth is close to 20 percent.

Health and Social Services Dean Jeffrey Brandon said programs offered by his college "are of great interest to a large number of individuals nationwide, especially in light of media attention being given to the staff shortages among nurses and social workers and the need for bilingual and bicultural public health workers."

Brandon noted that NMSU now offers a Master of Social Work program in Albuquerque "and we have experienced considerable growth at that distance education site, from 21 students last fall to 40 this fall."

Dean of Education Robert Moulton predicted that the 20 percent increase in graduate student enrollment in his college "is just the beginning."

"Our growth needs to be seen in light of the three-tiered licensing system for teachers and school reform legislation passed by the state Legislature in the last session," Moulton said. "The state now has a meaningful career ladder for some 22,000 educators in the state. More and more teachers are going to be opting for graduate school training to advance their careers."

The three-tiered licensing system is in part an attempt to keep teachers from leaving New Mexico for higher pay and greater career opportunities in other states, Moulton said. "There are definite pay incentives for career development as teachers move through these three levels," he said.

In response to the growing need for teachers in New Mexico, the dean said, expansion and renovation of O'Donnell Hall, which houses NMSU's College of Education, is the university's top capital outlay priority going into the next legislative session.

"We are excited about the growth in enrollment, but at the same time it will put a lot of pressure on our facilities," he said.

Official enrollment figures will be determined after the university's Sept. 5 census date. University officials are projecting an overall enrollment increase of about 5 percent for the main campus and four branch campuses.