The Santa Fe Higher Education Center has partnered with an out-of-state university in an effort to expand opportunities for local students to pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Nebraska-based Bellevue University now offers courses through the center, which is administered by Santa Fe Community College and also partners with three in-state institutions: University of New Mexico, Northern New Mexico College and New Mexico Highlands University.

“Bellevue is good at accepting as many credits as possible,” said Meghan McGarrity, the Higher Education Center’s interim director since January. “We find students pick up steam by finishing community college and want to turn their associate’s degree into a bachelor’s. But then they hit a wall when not all of their credit hours are taken.”

Once freshman and sophomore courses are completed through Santa Fe Community College or another institution, students apply for transfer to a university offering their selected degree through the Higher Education Center.

McGarrity said 85 students graduated last May with bachelor’s or master’s degrees from New Mexico Highlands in either social work, accounting or psychology through the Higher Education Center.

Currently, New Mexico Highlands is the only university to offer a hybrid of online and in-person classes through the center, which is located in Santa Fe’s midtown area. Bellevue joins UNM and Northern in offering online courses. McGarrity said the Higher Education Center plans to bring some in-person classes through UNM to Santa Fe in the spring.

Bellevue is a private, nonprofit, accredited university that opened in 1966 with a focus on providing adult education and educational outreach, according to online information.

McGarrity also said Santa Fe Community College will submit an expression of interest to the city of Santa Fe by the end of the month to use part of the former site of the College of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe University of Art and Design to expand the Higher Education Center.

“At this point, we want to increase landholdings and develop a new building,” McGarrity said. “We want to rethink what the path to degrees can be.”

Mark Wood, Bellevue’s local relationship manager, will host an information session from 10 a.m. until noon Oct. 17 in the Campus Center at Santa Fe Community College, 6401 Richards Ave. Students who attend the grand opening event can enter to win one of two $1,000 grants, which can be applied toward the cost of a degree from Bellevue.

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