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Gov. challenges college leaders

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By Russell Contreras
The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — Gov. Susan Martinez challenged leaders of the state’s colleges and universities Monday to develop a plan to fix schools’ remedial programs amid a scathing report faulting the state’s higher education institutions for failing to graduate students.

Speaking to college administrators and boards of regents from around the state at the Central New Mexico Community College-Workforce Training Center, Martinez asked them to develop a plan by the end of the year aimed at creating stronger remedial programs to prevent students from dropping out of college. She said the programs and some state high schools were failing to adequately prepare students for college-level courses. If that doesn’t change, Martinez said state colleges and the state’s economy could suffer long-term damage.

“Taxpayers are paying double for the same thing to be taught twice,” Martinez told administrators.

Martinez said students get discouraged by struggling to keep up with college-level courses and eventually drop out after going through financial aid.

A report released last week said New Mexico colleges were some of the most underperforming nationwide.

The Institute for a Competitive Workforce, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce affiliate, named the state’s two-year and four-year public institutions among the worst. According to the national study, the state’s 19 community colleges and six public universities received D and F grades for student access and academic performance. Those were among the lowest grades listed on ranks of states.

New Mexico was graded a “D’’ overall. Among the states ranking higher, California and Virginia both received “A’s.”

The study found that 70 percent of New Mexico college students receive federal aid, but only 40 percent of them graduate. Nationally, the median percentage of students who receive Pell grants is 30.8 percent and their graduation rate is 54.5 percent.

The state also received low marks for transparency and accountability. The report gave New Mexico an “F’’ for not tracking graduates’ performance in the labor market.

Martinez said colleges with strong remedial programs could tackle overall student achievement.