Background Report: Strengthening Higher Education and Tomorrow’s Workforce Town Hall


Purpose of this Report

This background report informs the 2018 statewide town hall, Strengthening Higher Education and Tomorrow’s Workforce, on April 10-11. Our state is rich in education and career opportunities, but also faces challenges. New Mexico First is working to overcome those obstacles by researching barriers to student success and convening a statewide deliberation on solutions.

The staff and board of New Mexico First believe that effective deliberations require a sound foundation in data, policy information, and the concerns surrounding higher education. All our town halls are preceded by a nonpartisan background report that sets the context.

Note: There are few right or wrong answers to any public policy question, and the problems and opportunities are complex. As a result, no explanation of the situation – including this report – can cover all information and opinions available. The people, policymakers, educators, community members and business leaders of New Mexico will lend their knowledge and expertise to the town hall.

About New Mexico First

A statewide public policy organization, New Mexico First engages people in critical issues facing their state and communities. The nonpartisan, nonprofit group produces comprehensive policy reports – primarily on natural resources, education, health and the economy. These analyses inform policy discussions, legislative options and student learning. The backgrounders also provide the foundation for New Mexico First’s unique town halls and forums that convene people to develop proposals to improve the state. The reports are available at Our state’s two U.S. Senators – Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich – serve as New Mexico First’s honorary co-chairs. The organization was co-founded in 1986 by retired U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman and the late Senator Pete Domenici.

Report Reviewers

This New Mexico First report was prepared by Heather W. Balas, Pamela K. Blackwell and Grant Taylor. The writing team was advised by the following committee members. Some offered input on the report as a whole, while others focused only on specific sections. We are grateful for their commitment to New Mexico’s future.

  • Del Archuleta, Molzin Corbin
  • Connie Beimer, UNM
  • Jamai Blivin, Innovate-Educate
  • Tracey Bryan, The Bridge of Southern New Mexico
  • Celina Bussey, N.M. Department of Workforce Solutions
  • Claire Chase, Mack Energy Corporation
  • Dana Christman, NMSU
  • Jon Courtney, N.M. Legislative Finance Committee
  • Todd DeKay, ENMU-Roswell
  • Travis Dulany, N.M. Legislative Finance Committee
  • Ron Eppes, Intel
  • Maggie George, Innovate-Educate
  • Steve Gomez, SFCC
  • Angelo Gonzales, Mission: Graduate
  • Roxanne Gonzales, NMHU
  • Robert Grassberger, UNM-Emeritus
  • Randy Grissom, SFCC
  • Rachel Gudgel, N.M. Legislative Education Study Committee
  • Sydney Gunthorpe, CNM
  • Jerry Harrison, New Mexico Health Resources
  • Tracy Hartzler, CNM
  • Elfreda Harvey-Yazzie, San Juan College
  • Vanessa Hawker, UNM
  • Anne Jakle, N.M. EPSCoR
  • Michelle Kavanaugh, Office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall
  • Kathy Keith, LANL
  • Hayley Klein, Artesia Chamber of Commerce
  • Kristen Krell, N.M. SUN PATH Consortium
  • Tessa Latson, Albuquerque Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Mark Lautman, Community Economics Lab
  • Ashley Leach, N.M. Department of Workforce Solutions
  • Carol Leach, Concho Resources
  • Carlos Lucero, PNM
  • Heidi Macdonald, N.M. Legislative Education Study Committee
  • Jeff McCool, NMJC
  • Valerie Montoya, SIPI
  • Yolanda Montoya-Cordova, Albuquerque Public Schools
  • Yash Morimoto, SFCC
  • Bridgette Noonen, N.M. Higher Education Department
  • T.K. O'Geary, Northrop Grumman Corp.
  • Allan Oliver, Thornburg Foundation
  • Elaine Perea, N.M. Public Education Department
  • Courtney Puryear, NMJC
  • Katie Richardson, Office of U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich
  • Valerie Romero-Leggott, MD UNM Health Sciences Center
  • Steve Sauceda, NMJC
  • Samantha Sengel, CNM
  • David Sexton, URENCO
  • Joseph Shepard, WNMU
  • Karen Trujillo, NMSU
  • Steve Vierck, Economic Development Corporation of Lea County
  • Mindy Watson, Clovis Community College
  • David Williams, Office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall
  • Peter Winograd, UNM-Emeritus

Where Do We Get Our Information?

Throughout this document, we provide as many data sources as possible. We draw from published reports, newspaper and journal articles, first-hand interviews and online resources. All direct quotes are from interviews conducted for this report unless otherwise noted. We know that policymakers, researchers and students use our reports, so we provide the details you need to learn more – and answer your questions. Footnotes provide short references to complete citations in the bibliography.


To better understand the educational system from the perspective of students, we conducted interviews. Thank you to all the students who took time to share their stories with us. We are so grateful for the hard work and dedication you show each day. You are already making a difference for your families and communities. Thank you also to research assistant and interviewer Gabrielle Ontiveros for her hard work and enthusiasm in developing the student content for this report. Student interviewees:

  • Zoila Alvarez - UNM School of Law
  • Allie Arning - New Mexico Tech
  • Chamisa Edmo - SIPI
  • Courtney Gavin - UNM, NMSU
  • Adriana Lujan-Paez - UNM, WNMU
  • Fabiola Perez - UNM
  • Derrick Platero - NMSU, San Juan College
  • Greg Powe - Doña Ana Community College
  • Ariel Scott, MD - UNM School of Medicine
  • Tessa Snyder - UNM
  • Kyle Park Spolidoro - UNM
  • Erica Velarde - UNM



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