Who Needs Public Education Anyways?

By: Rae Arnett

What does less funding for the public universities in New Mexico mean? Budget cuts and higher tuition costs are two things that immediately come to mind. But no matter what the actual cost might be, it will be you, the students, paying for it.

In a standoff with the New Mexico Legislature earlier this month, Governor Susana Martinez vetoed all of the funding for higher education. This standoff started over proposed raised taxes in the state budget. I do not want to pay more taxes, but we currently live in a state that is in a budgetary crisis and additional taxes are necessary.

My question –  why veto and put public universities at risk? It’s one question I cannot answer for certain, but I believe it is a political power play. Martinez knows that taking a harsh stand will have a greater probability of bring the state legislature to the table, on her terms.

In order to get the budget approved, and funding back for the public universities, there will have to be a special session called. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the special session will cost approximately $50,000 per day, which is not exactly desirable considering the current financial predicament our state is in.

Public education in New Mexico is generally ranked near the bottom of the annual Quality Education Reports, and this year was no different. New Mexico tied for 49th with Mississippi and Nevada came in at 50th. This does not bode well for public education in New Mexico, which has also been under the knife of budget cuts.

I do not know about you, but I want to be proud of education in New Mexico, which means we need to start appropriately funding our schools. All of them. Education starts early in our lives, and we continue through school for a significant amount of time. I have been “in school” for nearly 19 years, but I also know that I have been extremely fortunate in every step of my education.

When I look to the future and think about where I would want to build a career, life, and family; I think about education standards, cost of living, job security and safety. Needless to say, New Mexico ranks on my list for its proximity to my family but not for much else.

To further complicate matters, there is also a current job freeze on most state jobs, according to the Albuquerque Journal. But why does that matter? As graduation approaches, there is a significant appeal to state jobs as well as federal jobs.

Our state has essentially defunded public education, higher education, and created less job opportunities for the state. In a state where retention of college graduates is already an issue, it seems it would be wise not to dramatically raise tuition and to offer incentives, like job opportunities, for those recent graduates to stay.

Our state is in trouble. Our university is in trouble. And we are in trouble.

Call and let Susana Martinez know that you want public universities and public schools funded. The higher we build up our youth with education, the better off our entire state will be.

Susana Martinez’s office can be reached at 505-476-2200. Call her office and let her know what you think. She might be in her “lame duck” years as our Governor, but she still works for us; her constituents.


A hole, a small town, and the US government

By: Rae Arnett

My hometown of Nara Visa has been in the news lately, which is an odd occurrence all on its own. There are no gas stations, grocery stores, or police stations. The population of the town isn’t much, if I had to wager, I would bet there are more abandoned buildings in Nara Visa than occupied ones. So what has caused such a stir in this sleepy community?

A proposed test bore site done by the company Enercon is what has everyone interested in my little town. The site would be testing the viability of the land to store nuclear waste, and while there is nothing in the works to make the site an operational nuclear waste storage facility, at the moment, it’s not a risk some in the area are willing to take. 

My own father, Mark Arnett, raised his concerns and they were not about little ol Nara Visa, but rather about the Ogallala Aquifer. 

“I can’t imagine drilling through the Ogallala to make a hole to put nuclear waste in, it’s just asking for trouble,” said Arnett.

I agree, and not just because he is my dad. The Ogallala is an essential piece to surviving in Eastern New Mexico, West Texas, and six other states. Remember all those seemingly silly reminders to water on certain days, or the pipeline from Ute Lake to Curry and Roosevelt Counties? Those reminders and that pipeline are being built because water is such a precious resource in our area. For the people with the “mind your own business” attitude, I can think of a few people who would say to manage your own water better.

The thought of potentially contaminating that water is enough to make me run for the hills, so imagine how the locals who still live in Nara Visa feel. Are you starting to understand why you should be attentive, if not concerned, about the situation?

It’s hard to trust something new, even if it comes with the promise of revitalization and more jobs in the area. If anything, those big promises would make people more gun-shy. Why would you want to bring jobs and revitalization to a town that does not even have a gas station any longer? I am not disparaging Nara Visa; I love it, even if my cell phone does not work there. But, I also have a realistic outlook for the area. It’s an area for ranchers, not for the hustle and bustle. It’s a town you drive through, only those that are already intimate with its charms stop to look.

It was brought to my attention that some people thought these locals were overreacting. Maybe they were. But they are reacting for everyone who uses the Ogallala Aquifer, so I think we can cut them a break.

And for those that support the borehole, that is okay too. Revitalizing the community and the promise of more jobs is not something to dismiss in a hurry. It’s good to have the discussion, the debate, and to find a way through the new territory together. 

“In all debates, let truth be thy aim, not victory, or an unjust interest,” said William Penn.

A concept we should all keep in mind. Let’s debate to find the solution, not to disparage one another. Let’s debate to decide if this is right for the Nara Visa area, Eastern New Mexico, and the Ogallala Aquifer.


The Despicable Rally

By: Rae Arnett

More than 1000 New Mexico educators, parents, and students rallied at the Roundhouse Thursday afternoon according to Santa Fe Public Schools. With the hundreds of participants marching, chanting, and holding signs, it is hard not to believe the Governor and members of New Mexico’s state senate and congress did not hear the displeasure of their constituents.

The rally started off with marching around the roundhouse and chanting “save our schools” and “no more cuts”.

One woman in an upper level office at the roundhouse actually closed her window in an attempt to drown out the protests. Others in offices at the roundhouse stood at their windows and quietly cheered the protestors on.

Lana Wimberly, the 7th and 8th grade math and science teacher at Nino Otero community school showed up Thursday, March 16th, to support her school and all New Mexico educators as they protested outside of the New Mexico Roundhouse.

Lana Wimberly holds the sign her class helped create.

“As soon as the superintendent said she might be giving us some time off the kids and I started planning what we would do,” said Wimberly.

She was a little disappointed it was only a half day off for the schools because that meant some of her students would be able to make it.

“We were planning on where to meet up and how they could find me but with the half day off some of my students won’t be able to make it,” stated Wimberly.

Wimberly is from Texas originally and said Texas teachers have so much more than we do in New Mexico.

“The teachers here in New Mexico don’t even know what they are missing…almost $3000 more a month in pay, and more time off,” said Wimberly. Wimberly was especially disappointed that Governor Martinez would call educators despicable.

“Susanna Martinez just wants to take more away from the schools… she called us despicable,” said Wimberly in a shocked tone.

When asked, Wimberly stated she did not think the session would solve any of the issues at hand.

“I don’t think in this session will solve anything. It looks like the Republican senators are falling in line behind Susanna after she retaliated about them overriding her veto…whatever the next session is, maybe we can come up with something for our schools,” said Wimberly.

Wimberly said she has considered going back to Texas to teach, but she is not planning on going alone.

“I’ve thought about taking other teacher with me back to Texas so they could make more money. I have a five bedroom house there that I rent and I would like to do it just to make a statement,” said Wimberly.

Wimberly stated she has wrote a letter to Governor Martinez telling her about the plan. 

Joe Lister Jr., the Medically Fragile and Special Education teacher at Santa Fe High School attended the roundhouse rally because of his concern about how education cuts affect students long term.

“I don’t think law makers understand that education is the foundation for jobs, the street crime, the jails, and all the things that cost more money in the end,” said Lister.

Lister also stated he was concerned about the lac

k of awareness of the federal mandates for special education. “We can’t do it (meet the standards) without funding from the city, the state, and districts. With out that funding they will wreck us,” said Lister.

I don’t know if it’ll get solved but I think the people coming together to be heard is a great thing. 

Lister’s main concern for the upcoming school year is how special education will be affected.

“I am concerned the special education children won’t have the proper support needed to fulfill their education needs and how cuts will affect education all the way around,” said Lister.

Lara Becker, the 3rd grade teacher at Amy Biehl Community School, was also in attendance.

Becker said she attended because she was concerned about the budget cuts.

“The superintendent gave us a perfect opportunity to come out here and we are grateful for her,” said Becker. 

She stated that she hoped this rally would have a positive impact on how the budget was handled.

“Hopefully if the numbers show then it will make a statement. We can only be hopeful,” said Becker.

Becker’s main concern for next school year is the losing teachers.

“Losing teachers, losing quality teachers. It’s a loss for the kids,” said Becker.

Governor Martinez’s office did not return my call for comment.

Thursday’s March made it clear that New Mexico educators are fed up with the budget cuts to education in the state. New Mexico representatives would do well to listen to them, these protests come from people who voted them into office after all.


Anonymous Sources vs President in Tweet

By: Rae Arnett

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost,” stated Thomas Jefferson in a letter to James Currie in 1798; a concept that holds true to this day.

The constitution states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

The first amendment, as stated above, guarantees, among other freedoms, the freedom of the press. This allows the press to serve as the fourth estate, as a watchdog of all those in power, and a servant to the public instead of the government.

But why is this concept so important?

As Jefferson wrote, the freedom cannot be stifled without being lost. How many times have you found out something positive, or negative, about your community from the press? How often have you learned about this nation we call home? 

Think about the news coverage of riots, of protests, of celebrations; how did that information impact your life? I would argue that while news is not always sunshine and light, it does make the public better informed about their surroundings and their fellow Americans.

Our President in Tweet has been complaining about and condemning the leaks from within the government. Although, according to him, the leaks these stories create are “fake news”, which begs the question, why worry about leaks that have no actual sensitive information.

Call me crazy, but I would not be ranting on Twitter about the law being broken by these leakers, or be asking staffers to turn over their cell phones for examination, if there was not some truth to these accusations and articles.

He has condemned the use of unnamed sources in news articles and broadcasts. Yet, those sources speak on the condition of anonymity to protect themselves.

When I think of anonymous sources in the media, I think of Deep Throat. The scandal that surrounded President Richard Nixon and ultimately helped lead to his resignation was unearthed, in part, because of the bravery of FBI Associate Director Mark Felt who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 

Last week, President Trump’s White House, excluded members of the media from a press gaggle. It was not explicitly stated that the exclusion was a punishment for less than desirous coverage from those outlets; however, Trump has stated that the media is the “enemy of the American people”. 

Undermining the “fake news”, as they cover his newly minted presidency and the scandals that seem to plague him, is a good strategy for Trump to use to cover his own ass but will be disastrous for democracy if we allow it to continue.

In the words of Trump’s own Press Secretary Sean Spicer,

“I think we have a respect for the press when it comes to the government that that is something that you can’t ban an entity from… I think that’s what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship.”




Financial Aid Awareness Month Highlights – What Students Don’t Know

By: Sharna Johnson

Perhaps it’s denial, misinformation or a lack of information altogether, but nearly half of college students are under the impression their student loans will be forgiven.

February was Financial Aid Awareness Month, and it appears that awareness is desperately needed if a recent study is any indication.

Created by congress in 2010, the campaign’s goal is to raise awareness about federal financial aid options and particularly the ways federal financial aid can reduce the amount of student loans necessary to obtain a college education.

Recent data from a study conducted by LendEdu, however, shows that students may be operating under false ideas when it comes to how they will repay their loans, and in fact think they won’t have to pay them back at all.

LendEdu, a private company which acts as a marketplace for student lending options and refinance, in keeping with the theme of Financial Aid Awareness Month, asked 500 college students a series of questions to gauge their knowledge and understanding of financial aid and student loans. The survey results were released February 15.

When asked, “Do you believe that you will be helped by federal student loan forgiveness programs after graduation?” a startling 49.8 percent replied “yes”.

False belief loan forgiveness will help with loan repayment is one of the most concerning aspects of the results, a LendEdu study analysis stated, because students may be over-borrowing based on hope their loans will be forgiven in the future when the reality is that only a small percentage of college graduates qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

In general terms, in a student loan forgiveness program (they exist on the state and federal levels) a graduate’s debt is reduced in exchange for long-term employment in the public sector or in a low-income or high-need area.

Often these programs are also tied to specific professions such as healthcare, education, legal or STEM fields.

Not only does a student have to get hired for a position that qualifies for forgiveness programs, they also must meet other requirements, and fulfil a set employment period – ranging from a couple years to a decade on the job, often during which time regular loan payments must still be made by the borrower – to receive debt forgiveness.

LendEdu pointed out that a further 64 percent believe it is possible to refinance student loan debt with the federal government, however this is incorrect because there is no such animal.

Since federal refinancing programs don’t exist, college students, again, have false expectations of how they will repay their debts in the future.

Apparently, ignorance about loan forgiveness and refinancing aren’t the only problems when it comes to how much students don’t know about funding their college education.

Seven years after its inception, Financial Aid Awareness Month clearly still has a long way to go to reach its goal if some of the other study results are any indication:

  • 16 percent believe you need to pay money to file a FAFSA
  • 10 percent have never heard of FAFSA
  • 78 percent did not know what FAFSA stands for
  • 84 percent did not know when the 2017-2018 FAFSA deadline is
  • 80 percent could not identify the 2016-2017 maximum Pell Grant award amount
  • 80 percent could not identify current federal student loan interest rates
  • 79 percent did not know the current repayment term is 10 years
  • 74 percent did not know the current borrowing limits for federal student loans

“There is no doubt that getting a degree is helpful and may reap huge benefits. However, it concerns us here at LendEDU that students do not understand how they are funding their education,” LendEdu stated in conjunction with the release of the study.

The average student graduates with $28,400 in student debt, according to LendEdu.

“Add in the fact that students know very little about how to handle that debt, and that number becomes even more intimidating.”

The current study is not the only time LendEdu has uncovered deficiencies in understanding about financial aid.

In 2016, a study found 85 percent of students rely on their parents for financial aid and loan information, however parents – 47.65 of whom believed their children will be helped by federal student loan forgiveness programs – apparently don’t understand much better than they do. With an endless amount of student loan information available to students and parents, a reasonable excuse for the lack of understanding is hard to come by, and more importantly, won’t matter when the loans come due.

Parents should educate themselves on financial aid and student loans so they can assist their children, however ultimately it is the student who will be responsible for repayment and needs to understand.

One of the most simple and accessible sources of knowledge is already required of students when they draw federal loans for school – mandatory entrance and exit counseling which includes personalized information to help students put their debts in perspective. Additional information designed to help students and parents navigate career choices, college funding and plan for managing loans after school can be found online at: Federal Student Aid

It’s never too early to gain an understanding of future debts, though waiting until the bill comes due is most certainly too late.


New Mexico’s Education Enigma

By: Rae Arnett

Education has been a hot topic in national news since Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education. Concerns about DeVos and how she will fund the public school system and what, if anything, she will change are prominent on social media; almost as prominent as the memes about how unqualified she is to hold the office.

Education has been a tense subject in New Mexico for years. Lack of funds and increased testing standards have made educating the youth more difficult, and for a small salary. Most recently concerns were raised about the bill Governer Susana Martinez signed into effect which took funds from public school’s savings to decrease the budget deficit for the state.

To get a better grasp on how these cuts might affect educators in New Mexico, I thought I would ask a few.

Jamie Guevara, a middle school Language Arts teacher, said his concerns about DeVos centered on her lack of experience.

“I am only aware of pro voucher which would make our low performing schools even worse.  DeVos lacks the understanding of issues that affect public education and does not have the resume to be in her current position,” said Guevara.

Connie Jackson, Business Manager for the Regional Education Center #6, was more optimistic.

“I am willing to wait and see what will happen, it will be a challenge for her to put aside her personal preferences regarding education, I believe we need to be positive and give her the benefit of the doubt….let’s hope she steps up,” said Jackson.

Anita Narvot, a middle school Social Studies and Language Arts teacher, said “I can’t imagine standardized testing would increase with the new administration, we already have so much in place…  Federal funding could definitely be an issue with her in NM.  As you mentioned, we are already hurting and do not meet the NM Constitution funding formula” are her concerns about DeVos.

As far as the state taking money from the schools to balance the state budget, the answers are all centered around the state budget being important, but education is important as well.

“I think it is a temporary fix and the state is targeting the wrong areas to “fix” the budget.  The borrowing will target school budgets financially and will be a hardship for all schools, personnel, instructional materials, transportation, food service….all will suffer,” said Jackson.

“If there is a rainy day fund then it’s time to use it. I think policy makers and administration need to cut unnecessary spending and put the money in the classroom.  New Mexico needs to prioritize.  We can combat our high poverty rate with better learning experience for kids,” said Guevara.

The goals for how each of the interviewees would improve education in New Mexico, if they could only change one thing, were focused on more opportunities for students and better pay for teachers.

“Consistent pay raises for the education profession will attract more qualified and dedicated applicants.  I have witnessed a lot of students who initially go to college for a teaching degree move to another major due to low pay and too many requirements asked of teachers and officials,” said Jackson.

“I would fund public education equally so that every student receives the same amount of money for his/her education regardless of the state they live in,” said Guevara.

Their concerns about New Mexico education echoed these goals to move towards.

“Money makes a difference in education. From a federal to a state level, priorities need to change.  Teacher compensation is low in NM, so teachers go elsewhere and recruiting a good teacher is difficult. Too many students drop out because NM does not offer vocational learning alternatives. I don’t see progress. I see politicians creating mandates that hinder progress,” said Guevara.

“Less funding to the districts means more staff and program cuts….more hiring of first year teachers (if they can find any) who don’t have any experience, also non-experienced classified staff.  I see a lot of eligible folks who can retire and will if they have to take on more responsibilities.  If schools try to reduce expenses through attrition it also creates a problem, one person sometimes is going to have to do two jobs, which cuts into quality education.  Fine arts and athletics will be the first things to go and I feel these are very important programs for the success of our students,” said Jackson.

With concerns about being able to train, retain, and successfully support the retirement of educators in New Mexico as well as budget short falls which affect our classrooms and students, it might be worth listening to the educators on the front line for solutions.


NM Legislature & Proposed Changes for College Students

By: Sharna Johnson

Loan assistance for minority doctoral students in engineering, science or math fields, drastic changes to the Lottery Scholarship, college transfer credits and hazing laws are among issues currently being considered by the New Mexico Legislature.
The 2017 Regular Session runs from January 17 to March 18, with legislators under a deadline of February 16 to propose legislation.  Less than a month in, hundreds of pieces of legislation have already been introduced and – from introduction to committee where they either die or move forward to a vote – are in various stages of moving through the state’s law-making body.
Working in a heated political environment and under threat of state financial crisis, New Mexico lawmakers must tackle several critical issues this year, not the least of which include an already-passed series of budget solvency bills to address budget deficits.
Other hot topics include proposed recreational marijuana, the right-to-die, parental notification of abortions, hemp research and background checks for private gun transactions, to name a few.
In addition to legislation reflecting state and national issues, however, are some bills that specifically impact college students:

SB 276 Lottery Scholarship Awards & Applications:
This bill, sponsored by Sen. John M. Sapien, D-Corrales, amends the Legislative Lottery Tuition Scholarship Act and is scheduled for review by the Senate Education Committee February 10.
Currently available to all students who graduated from high school or received high school equivalency in New Mexico, under the proposed changes, students would be required to apply for the Lottery Scholarship. Also, rather than the current system of funding 90 percent of a New Mexico student’s tuition, the Lottery Scholarship would pay varying maximum tuition scholarships based on the number of program semesters a student has received the scholarship. For example, a student at a community college would receive 60 percent their first two and 100 percent their third semester, while students at comprehensive and research institutions would receive 40 percent their first semester, 50 percent the second and third, 80 percent the fourth and 100 percent in the fifth, sixth and seventh semesters.
The proposal attempts to address a reduction in the Lottery Scholarship fund which is anticipated a reduction of tuition coverage from the current 90 percent, to 70 percent or less in the 2018 funding year. Research institutions argue the formula favors community colleges and opponents also assert that requiring students to apply for the scholarship places poor and first-generation college students at a disadvantage.
HB 194, “Lottery Scholarship Full & Need Based”; HB 237 “Liquor Tax to Lottery Scholarship Fund”; HB 344, “Lottery Scholarship Full & Need Based”; SB 188 “Disabilities Students Lottery Scholarships”; and SB 192 “Transfer of Lottery Funds”, are other bills currently in the legislature which propose amendments to the Lottery Tuition Scholarship.
Click to read more or track SB 276

SB 103 Transfer of College Credits:
Designed to assist college students, particularly transfer students, in fulfilling graduation requirements, this bill sponsored by Sen. Gaye Kernan, R-Hobbs, would amend the Post-Secondary Education Articulation Act.
In addition to changing the definition of “articulation of credits” to “a transfer of courses to fulfill graduation requirements”, the bill removes the requirement that the general education core have at least 35 credit hours.
Under the proposed amendment, the Higher Education Department would be required to develop a statewide general education core curriculum of not less than 15-24 credit hours for an associate degree or 30 hours for a bachelor’s degree including lower-division courses that provide a liberal education. All courses included in the general education core would be required to be transferable and to fulfill general education requirements wherever they are transferred.
Click to read more or track SB 103

SB 197 Loan Repayment for Certain Students:
This Act, proposed by Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, repeals portions of an existing program, revising it to broaden its applicability and allow greater discretion to the Higher Education Department regarding student need and qualification. It has cleared the Senate Education Committee and is now under review by the Senate Finance Committee.
The original Minority Doctoral Loan for Service program was designed to increase the number of minority or female faculty in specific fields at New Mexico’s public postsecondary institutions. Students who have successfully completed a doctoral degree program at an eligible institution in the fields of engineering, physical or life sciences or mathematics and have been hired to a full-time, tenured position at a New Mexico public postsecondary institution can receive loan repayment assistance from the Higher Education Department.
According to the Higher Education Department, the current program requires students and institutions to make employment commitments prior to a student completing their doctoral degree, which is extremely difficult because most students must complete post-doctoral work in their field before they are qualified for faculty positions. Only five candidates are enrolled in the program for the 2017 funding year.
Click to read more or track SB 197

HB 200 Anti-Hazing Act:
Introduced by Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, the Anti-Hazing Act boasts 14 sponsors in the House and is currently located in the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee.
Under the proposal, the act of hazing would become a misdemeanor, subject to up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. Knowingly participating, aiding or assisting in hazing resulting in death would become a fourth degree felony, punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment.
Hazing, as defined by the act, is requiring a student or other person to perform any act for the purpose of induction or admission into or continued good standing in groups, organizations, teams or societies associated with an educational institution.
The act prohibits any activity that, “recklessly or intentionally endangers the health of a student or other person, including requiring the consumption of food, yelling, humiliating, harassing, belittling, cursing, sleep deprivation, forced calisthenics, drug or alcohol use, striking, beating, paddling, slapping, blindfolding, pushing or maiming; threatening to require sleep deprivation, forced calisthenics or drug or alcohol use; threatening to strike, beat, paddle, slap, blindfold, push or maim; or requiring any morally degrading, illegal or indecent action.”
Click to read more or track HB 200


College Scorecards

By: Sharna Johnson 

There are many factors involved in selecting a college – programs of study, location, funding, cost and housing options to name a few – but the U.S. Department of Education is promoting an additional tool to help students and families make informed decisions, specifically aimed at shining the light on what happens after college.

College Scorecard data is intended to provide students insight beyond traditional college vitals such as size, average cost and graduation rates, according to a fact sheet provided by the Education Department, which redesigned College Scorecards in 2015 under the direction of the Obama administration.

Expanded information on how students fare financially after leaving college is included in the newest College Scorecards, released in September.

“To address the lack of information about college quality and costs, the Administration has created a new College Scorecard to provide reliable and unbiased information about college performance. Armed with this accessible and accurate information, students and their families will be able to make more informed decisions and better understand the consequences and tradeoffs of their choices,” A January technical paper produced by the administration states.

Presenting a digital “scorecard” for each college, the interactive database gives information on school size, graduation and retention rates, student body characteristics including socioeconomic data, academic programs, and SAT/ACT scores.

Scorecards also alert users when a school is in the hot seat, for example, the scorecard for Eastern Oklahoma State College displays a red flag indicating the school is under monitoring by the Education Department due to financial or federal compliance issues.

Gaining the most attention, however, is school-specific data on income levels of college versus high school graduates as well the average salaries of graduates, average debt rates and typical monthly loan payments – in essence, giving perspective on how attending a particular school might influence earning potential and ability to repay college debts after graduation.

For instance, ranked the sixth-largest of 39 colleges in New Mexico, graduates of Eastern New Mexico University, Portales, on average earn $ 29,300, and 53 percent earn the same or less than those with only a high school diploma, according to College Scorecard data.

However the data also shows ENMU students pay some of the lowest education costs in the state, ranking 26 of 39, with an average annual expense of $10,090. Additionally, only 33 percent of students use student loans, leaving school with an average undergraduate debt of $15,750 and a typical monthly loan payment of $162.

U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard data provides school rankings and post-college earning information but some have criticized its value.

Comparatively, at University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, the largest 4-year school in the state, loan use is nearly 10 percent higher, with undergraduates averaging $19,576 in take-away debt, average earnings of $34,900, and 44 percent making the same or less than those with high school diplomas, College Scorecard data shows.

Essentially, though vastly different in program diversity, location and size – UNM has 20,261 undergraduate students; ENMU has 3,731 – when debt versus salary is accounted for, the financial outcomes for graduates of either school are strikingly similar.

College Scorecards have received criticism for not painting an entirely realistic picture.

In a February 2016 analysis titled “Scoring the College Scorecard” the Center for American Progress made numerous critiques and suggestions for improving scorecards after the Education Department released its first batch of revised data. 

Among concerns raised in the report was scorecards are based upon records of students receiving federal financial aid and excludes information of students funded through private means due to a congressional ban preventing the Education Department from collecting data of non-financial aid recipients. As a result, scorecard data is representative of only a percentage of students.

Additionally, the CAP recommended the averages presented should be more specific – broken down by program, completion status, the year students leave school and including graduate student results – while acknowledging the suppression of non-federal aid data.

Though the digital interface is simple to use, considering College Scorecard data does require users to think a little deeper and apply perspective when judging school results, as CAP’s recommendations imply.

Earning data is drawn from 2013 income tax records – on the cusp of being three-years-old at the time of release – and does not address career-specific salary projections.

For example, in 2015 an over-25 high school graduate averaged $35,356 annually, while an individual possessing a bachelor’s degree earned an average salary of $59,124, according to US Labor Department statistics.

And Labor Depart figures go even further to define career-specific financial outcomes – an individual in computer and mathematical occupations was projected to earn a median $81,430 in 2015, compared to $19,580 for food preparation and serving related occupations.

Admittedly, College Scorecard data is expressed in averages and does not necessarily speak to individual student success, the Obama administration acknowledged in its report.

Where its true success lies, is in demonstrating how federal data can be applied as a measurement of college outcomes, an area not thoroughly explored prior to the revamping of scorecards.

“While most of these data do not necessarily reflect how a specific individual’s outcome would change were he or she to attend a particular college, this report offers exploratory analyses of how federal data may be used to measure an institution’s impact on a subset of performance measures,” the report said.

College Scorecard data holds merit for students in a variety of ways, some argue.

In a January “Treasury Notes” blog article, the US Treasury Department released conclusions about the validity of College Scorecard data based on an analysis of a second, 2017 study of college outcome data titled, “Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility in the U.S.”.

The MRC study not only found the scorecard data to be reliable as a predictor of how students perform after attending a specific school, it also provides valuable insight into how students from varied socioeconomic backgrounds can predict outcomes.

“The analysis behind the Scorecard suggested not only that there are large differences across institutions in their economic outcomes, but that these differences are relevant to would-be students.

For instance, the evidence in the Scorecard showed that when a low-income student goes to a school with a high completion rates and good post-college earnings, she is likely to do as well as anyone else there,” wrote Adam Looney, the tax analysis deputy assistant secretary for the US Treasury Department.

Given the wide range of data students encounter when trying to predict post-college success, College Scorecard information becomes a small piece of a larger picture.

While the performance of a particular school may influence a student’s success after college, it is more likely the student’s career choices; financial decisions and academic investment and performance will determine individual outcome.

In considering scorecard data, students and families have an advantage over previous generations in the sense that they can be warned of problems, evaluate costs, typical debt loads, campus size, socioeconomic advantages or disadvantages, average peer standing and performance and average post-college economic predictions.

Just as each student is unique, their experience will be too, however, and information has to be placed in perspective with things such as what a student’s career goals are, whether they plan to pursue higher degrees, where they want to live after school, what their life-goals are and how much income will be needed to meet those goals while repaying any student debts incurred along the way.

Students owe it to themselves to plan and research their futures as realistically – combining data and goals – as they can, while making an investment of time and effort, because ultimately post-college success will be determined through a combination of informed decision making and hard work. 

On the web:

College Scorecards: collegescorecard.ed.gov

US Labor Department Employment Projections: www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_001.htm


What the Trump is an Alternative Fact

By: Rae Arnett

This week, as I was watching the Trump Administration take full swing, I admit that I was curious about what, if any, campaign promises he would fulfill.

I was anxious to see what he might tweet, what he might say, and who he might nominate for confirmation.

I was not expecting a pissing contest about inauguration crowd sizes nor was I expecting the absurdity that is “alternative facts”.

Senior Advisor to Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway, explained that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s interesting first interaction with the press (where he claimed that Trump’s inauguration had the biggest crowd ever. Period) was a representation of alternative facts. Wait… what? That’s what I thought. What is in alternative fact and how can I get some?

But let’s just examine that phrase for a moment.

Alternative is defined as of one or more things available as another possibility.

Fact is defined as a thing that is indisputably the case.

Alternative fact is, plain and simple, an oxymoron. There is no quantifiable evidence that Trump’s inauguration had the largest crowd in history, however there is verifiable evidence of Obama’s inauguration crowd being larger than Trump’s.

Spicer did not present alternative facts. He did not present facts at all, and furthermore, regardless of your personal feelings about the new administration’s policies, there should be concern about these blatant lies.

Being concerned with the honesty and integrity of the White House Administration should be expected of the American people. Especially when the lies told are not serving to protect national secrets, but rather to placate the ego of our 45th president. There is no other reason to lie about such trivial facts. Who cares about the size of the inauguration crowds? Or his hands for that matter.

If we are in the business of accepting alternative facts, then I would like to point out that Marilyn Monroe is going to be my Maid of Honor when I get married, because that’s what alternative facts are; complete fabrications.

I challenge everyone reading this to push for an honest administration. This is not about policies, executive orders, or campaign promises. It is about holding the highest office in the nation accountable and maintaining the ethics we have come to expect from such an office.

Now is not the time to be passive. If you disagree with your local, state, or national representatives then let them know. If you think they are doing a stellar job then write them, call them, send them a bottle of tequila; just do not be passive.

But, even further, I challenge you to look for and expect honesty and integrity from yourselves, and from those around you. If we are going to survive an administration of trivial lies and lack of integrity, then we must truly rise above it and elevate ourselves to a higher level.


Trump’s Cabinet

By: Chris McManigal

One of the first duties of any new President is to choose the people he wants to work in his Administration. Those people are referred to as his Cabinet and consist of people generally considered to be experts in their respective fields that are expected to serve as advisors to the President during his term. If confirmed by the Senate, they serve as Secretaries of Executive departments.

Trump hasn’t announced his picks for all Cabinet positions yet, but here’s look at who he’s tapped so far.

Trump’s first pick shortly after the election when he announced Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as his choice for Attorney General. Sessions is a long time Trump supporter and is currently serving his 4th term as Senator.

Betsy DeVos was announced as Trump’s choice for Education Secretary shortly after the announcement of Sessions. DeVos is a supporter of charter schools and Common Core.

Outspoken Obamacare critic, Republican Congressman Tom Price from Georgia is up for Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Elaine Chao, who served as the Labor Secretary under George W. Bush, is Trump’s pick for Transportation Secretary.

Steven Mnuchin, longtime Chief Information Officer for Goldman Sachs was announced as the pick for the Secretary of Treasury.

Trump’s pick for Commerce Secretary is Wilbur Ross, a fellow billionaire who earned the nickname the “King of Bankruptcy” for his firm’s work in restructuring failing companies.

Trump also tapped retired Marine Corps General James Mathis as Secretary of Defense.

Trump’s only choice that doesn’t need Senate confirmation is that of his selection for his Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, who has already been appointed. Priebus is the former head of the Republican National Committee.

Trump has also announced several non-cabinet level positions.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will become the Ambassador to the United Nations if confirmed by the Senate.

Former Marco Rubio supporter Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo will be the incoming CIA Director if confirmed.

Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn will be Trump’s National Security Advisor. This position does not require Senate confirmation.