U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich introduced legislation Wednesday aimed at keeping college students in school through graduation for the next 10 years.

The bill, called the College Completion Fund Act, would require states to develop strategic plans for increasing completion and graduation rates in order to access $62 billion in funding through the U.S. Department of Education.

“The fact is that federal education policies and funding support for colleges and universities have not caught up with the realities facing today’s student bodies,” Heinrich said during a virtual presentation last week hosted by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Higher Education Policy. “We’ve focused for so long on how we can get students into college. I’d argue we need to focus much more on how to help students get through college.”

Heinrich lauded the proposal as a way for schools to better track retention rates.

Under the proposal, funding would be distributed to states based on census tract poverty data in an attempt to reach under-resourced schools, and states would need to gear proposals toward low-income and first-generation college students.

If the bill passes Congress and is signed into law by President Joe Biden, states would be able to use the funds for multiple purposes, such as career coaching, data collection on student progress and child care for students who are parents.

Heinrich’s proposal was met with enthusiasm Wednesday by local college and university officials.

“We welcome additional funds to help keep students in New Mexico colleges and universities,” state Higher Education Department spokeswoman Stephanie Montoya wrote in an email.

Santa Fe Community College President Becky Rowley said that if passed, funding from the federal legislation could go to wraparound services for students. The University of New Mexico has backed the bill and is one of a handful of institutions calling for Congress to incorporate the legislation into the upcoming infrastructure bill Heinrich hopes will pass later this year.

In a news release from Heinrich’s office, UNM President Garnett Stokes said college completion and degree attainment “are very important to promoting upward mobility for New Mexico’s underserved populations, many of whom are first-generation college seekers.”

According to data from the 2019 school year, 77 percent of first-time students enrolled at UNM’s main campus in 2018 returned the following year.

Fifty-four percent of students who enrolled at UNM in 2014 graduated within 150 percent of the average completion time — within six years for a four-year degree — in their respective programs.

(7) comments

Mike Johnson

Interesting, a government funded push for universities to lower their standards and let students graduate when they really did not earn it. If at first you don't succeed, lower your standards, typical for a left wing politician.

John Cook

This article contains not one word about colleges lowering their standard or about letting students graduate when they really did not earn it. Not a single thing about this program can be construed by a sane person as promoting either of those things. To simply make that up from the whole cloth is typical for a right wing fabricator.

Richard Irell

He just makes stuff up and is utterly shameless about it.

Mike Johnson

Mr. Cook, myself and many alumni friends I know use our philanthropy efforts to support the many worthy "finish line" type scholarships at our various alumni universities, such as this one:


The difference between this, and the bureaucracy, red-tape, and corruption potential laden one Marty wants, is huge. In ours, we directly give the university money for this purpose (completion of existing degree requirements), and they distribute it to worthy students in need. Contrast that with what Marty wants: "Under the proposal, funding would be distributed to states based on census tract poverty data in an attempt to reach under-resourced schools, and states would need to gear proposals toward low-income and first-generation college students." You do see the distinct and critical differences here, don't you? In one the university is in charge of distributing directly contributed funds to students in need, in the other an entire bureaucracy, (again in NM it will be corrupt, as all government things are...), process, reports, etc. must be established before any money is distributed, and then comes the real problems as with any government bureaucracy, which is only meant to employ and reward relatives and cronies, and the students are at the end of a very long pork trough.......only a government type would prefer Marty's disaster.

Richard Irell

What part of a public university do you not understand? From your comments, it seems that you think UNM is a private institution in risk of government meddling.

The time of someone working their way through school is long gone. We need more of our taxpayer dollars allocated to our public colleges and universities.

Mike Johnson

Mr. Irell, do you seriously think the federal government controls the public universities in New Mexico? That would come as a surprise to the university board of regents and MLG......

Richard Irell

The federal government provides lots of funding to public and private colleges and universities. This funding comes with strings which is why the schools enforce things like Title IX. The governing body of UNM has to operate within the constraints imposed by the federal government or things like Pell Grants and R&D dollars will go bye-bye.

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