Two more New Mexico community colleges announced interest last week in joining a partnership that aims to streamline administrative processes through the nonprofit Collaborative for Higher Education Shared Services.

Luna Community College in Las Vegas, N.M., and Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari would join five other small schools in the state, including Santa Fe Community College and Northern New Mexico College, as part of the collaborative, known as CHESS, which started in April. The hope of the initiative is to create an online database for sharing records such as student and employee applications and integrating human resources and financial systems.

Last month, the colleges selected a human resources and financial software suite called Workday to carry out plans for establishing a shared database — and administrators are “jazzed,” said CHESS spokeswoman Laura Mulry.

Mulry said having such a database may ease issues in schools where hiring staff to register and recruit students can be difficult.

The database also could make it much easier for students enrolled at one of the schools to take credits at another by making academic and financial information more widely available.

“The whole reason we’re doing this is for students,” Mulry said in an interview. “The ease of transitioning from one institution to another will be much better.”

That would be a boon for students at a school like Mesalands Community College, in a town of fewer than 5,000 people.



“Our students are sometimes hindered in completing their degrees on time due to our rural location,” noted Mesalands President Gregory Busch in a recent news release about the colleges’ interest in joining CHESS.

Administrators at Luna and Mesalands will need to evaluate their current information technology systems before recommending to each of their governing boards that the school joins the CHESS project.

State lawmakers allocated $3 million toward the collaborative during the 2021 regular session. But in an interview in spring 2021, Santa Fe Community College President Becky Rowley noted it could cost millions more.

Kathy Ulibarri, the CEO of CHESS, said schools are still able to join the effort to streamline data and information — although the benefit of the collaborative will differ from school to school.

The project is a few years away from its expected completion.

Ulibarri said work on a financial and human resources module will begin in November and is expected to be finished in January 2023. A student module could be ready by spring of 2024.

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