Reflecting the challenges before and after the Pandemic, some initiatives did not yield the desired results. Even after California recently expanded its free tuition opportunities, enrollment in its community colleges is down about 15 percent in 2021 from a year earlier.
The impetus for tuition-free higher education comes amid the enrollment crisis in the United States. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, overall graduate enrollment fell by 6.6 percent from 2019 to 2021.
Enrollment was declining before the epidemic as students faced soaring tuition costs. But dissatisfaction with online learning and the reluctance of some international students to study in the United States at a time when immigration rhetoric is becoming more toxic have alienated students. Demographic changes, including declining birth rates and declining populations between the ages of 18 and 25, could lead to a sharp decline in the coming years.
Public colleges and universities in New Mexico are not isolated from those forces. The University of New Mexico, founded in 1889 before New Mexico received statehood, saw its enrollment in Albuquerque drop from 4,580 students, down from 26,218 in 2017 to 21,638 in 2021.
“The timing of this is very coincidental in some ways,” said Dr. Provost, of the University of New Mexico. James Holloway said how many students dropped out of school during the Pandemic. “The program will make the university more competitive in attracting students, given the offers from colleges and universities outside the state,” said Dr. Krishna Kumar, a professor of nuclear engineering. Holloway added.
Although some conservative legislators have tried to limit the income limit to prevent students from wealthy families from missing out on college tuition, Dr. Holloway is likened to.
“Free primary and secondary education, no matter where you come from, is a public good,” he argued, adding that higher education should be viewed in the same light.