New Mexico Highlands University Regent Frank “Harpo” Sanchez during a recent regents’ meeting expressed concern about the declining numbers of on-campus students.

“If we continue to decline this way, there won’t be a need for a campus in Las Vegas in the next 5 to 10 years,” Sanchez said 

NMHU’s fall enrollment dropped 4.3 percent from one year earlier, falling from 2,780 to 2,658 students. Undergraduate enrollment dropped 8 percent, dropping to 1,550 students this year.

For a second year in a row, Highlands experienced a 26 percent decrease in freshman from the previous year. Graduate student enrollment, however, increased 2.8 percent to 1,108. 

Fifty-eight percent Highlands’ students are undergraduates and 42 percent are graduate students; 84 percent are New Mexicans.

“Maybe things aren’t working at any of the other universities,” Sanchez said. “I know numbers are down at UNM and New Mexico State as well, but that doesn’t matter to me. What does matter to me is that we are losing students.”

Highlands set a goal to increase enrollment to 3,000 students by fall of 2025. The university wants to increase freshmen to 200 per year and get more students from the Santa Fe and Albuquerque areas as well as Arizona, Colorado and Texas.

It was also noted during the meeting that local high schools’ graduating classes have decreased in size by 15 percent over the last five years. This includes Robertson, West Las Vegas, Pecos, Mora, Wagon Mound and Santa Rosa high schools.  This gives Highlands fewer students to recruit.

Earlier this month, Highlands announced it would offer four-year, full scholarships for 2022 graduates from eight area high schools. The program is for this year only. Students with at least a 3.0 grade-point average at the end of their junior year can apply. The deadline is Dec. 31.

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