New Mexico State University Carlsbad’s 13.1% increase in student enrollment was the result of a strong dual credit program, officials said.
The Carlsbad campus – which boasted the highest one-year-jump of any NMSU Community campus – reported 158 more students in fall 2021 than fall 2020, according to the NMSU Census Enrollment Reports.
“The Carlsbad dual credit numbers are (higher) partially because they have such a strong early college high school,” said NMSU Carlsbad’s Branch Executive Director Kenneth Van Winkle.
Carlsbad Early College High School grew by 163 students, officials reported, or 39%.
The growth was not enough however to bring enrollment at NMSU Carlsbad back to pre-pandemic levels, as NMSU Carlsbad begins the transition to the independent Southeast New Mexico College. The transition would not affect the dual credit program which sees students earn a high school diploma while also earning a two-year college degree.
NMSU Carlsbad had a total of 1,361 students enrolled in fall 2021; 180 were freshmen, 127 were sophomores, 51 were juniors and 28 were seniors. Two-hundred sixty-four were continuing education undergraduate students and 22 were undergraduate transfer students.
New Mexico State University reported system-wide drop in enrollment in fall 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic led to statewide stay-at-home orders that required students to take classes remotely.
Enrollment at Carlsbad dropped 33.9%, from 1,821 students in spring 2020 to 1,203 students in fall 2020. The Spring 2021 enrollment dropped to 1,162 students, according to the enrollment data from the university.
Van Winkle said the decline was likely caused by the difficulties of going to school during a pandemic.
“There’s some students that slip through the cracks because they either didn’t have the technology or they couldn’t get to the Wi-Fi that they needed to complete classes,” Wan Winkle said. “Then we found that other students just had a harder time trying to take classes online.”
Multiple factors contribute to growth in certain enrollment categories and decline in others, Van Winkle said. He pointed to the slow return of non-traditional students to community colleges like NMSU Carlsbad as an example.
“We have parents who may have children at home who need to work rather than go to school during the pandemic,” Van Winkle said.
Here are the changes at each campus from last year to this year:
- NMSU-Carlsbad grew 13.1%
- The main campus dropped 2.3%
- Doña Ana Community College, dropped 8.2%
- NMSU-Grants grew by 11.3%
- NMSU-Alamogordo grew by 0.5%
- NMSU’s online college, NMSU O, grew about 10%
As enrollment numbers decline the amount of tuition a college receives decreases, Van Winkle said. He pointed to the impact on a college’s budget which supports faculty salaries, fund programs and keeps a campus operating.
“All of the campuses in the NMSU system were able to survive and are coming back out of this in a pretty strong way, particularly Carlsbad,” Van Winkle said. “As we develop new programs and workforce certificates for local needs, we’re hoping that we actually can go beyond pre-pandemic numbers.”
Claudia Silva is a reporter from the UNM Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at [email protected], by phone at 575-628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.