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New Mexico State University

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NMSU-Grants ranked in Washington Monthly magazine's Top 30 community colleges

GRANTS - They're doing things right at NMSU's Grants campus and Washington Monthly magazine has noticed. NMSU-Grants is ranked among the Top 30 community colleges in the magazine's Third Annual College Rankings, published in the September issue.

"This article demonstrates that the type of culture we want to establish here for ourselves, our students and our community is happening," said Felicia Casados, campus executive officer of the community college. "It says we're on the right track."

The magazine uses the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) and graduation rates statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education. The campus was ranked high in the CCSSE standings in recent years.

"We had a professor from an out-of-state college of similar size come to find out what was making us unique because we were considered one of the top schools in the CCSSE rankings. We told her the beauty of small is small. CCSSE is about how students feel. Being one of the smallest colleges in New Mexico allows us to have the time and attention to give the students the personalized service and I think the students appreciate it," she said. "We have a sense of community, not just on our campus but in Grants and surrounding areas as well."

The survey is a reflection that the Grants staff and faculty are attentive to the students, Casados said. "We get to know our students on a more personal level than we would at a larger institution."

Washington Monthly used the survey for 85 percent of the ranking mechanism. CCSSE administrators compile raw survey data into five composite benchmarks that gauge success in active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction and support for learners.

With a national average of 50 for each category, NMSU-Grants is above average in all areas on the 2006 survey: 58.2 in active and collaborative learning, 58.1 in student effort, 54.6 in student-faculty interaction, 54.5 in support for learners and 54.2 in academic challenge.

In the same survey, other New Mexico colleges averaged 54.5 in active and collaborative learning and student effort, 52.6 in support for learners, 52.3 in student-faculty interaction and 51.5 in academic challenge. The New Mexico colleges surveyed besides NMSU-Grants were Clovis Community College, Dona Ana Community College, Eastern New Mexico University, New Mexico Military Institute, NMSU-Alamogordo, Northern New Mexico Community College, San Juan College, Santa Fe Community College, Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute, University of New Mexico-Gallup, UNM-Taos and UNM-Valencia Campus.

"The CCSSE indicates we're attentive and try our best to serve our students' needs," said Casados. "I feel we are on track to reaching our goal of, one day, people at four-year institutions will say, 'What are they doing at NMSU-Grants that we are getting these incredible students? What are they doing over there that these students come with a sense of optimism and resilience and a capacity to learn?'

"We face the same academic challenges that everyone faces in the United States: the under-prepared high school student and adult student who is under-prepared because they have been out of school so long," Casados said. "My challenge to our faculty is: what can we do to give those students hope that they can step up and accomplish their educational goals? It's the student's job in the end that they do the work. All we can do is provide the services and encouragement."