New Mexico State University

NMSU\s Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning Subcommittee

Social and Demographic External Factors

April 1, 1997


Co-Chairs: Dino Cervantes and Jim Williams

Members: Maria Luisa Gonzalez

D. Levi Gwaltney

Marie T. Mora

Walter Stephan

Social and Demographic Strategic Planning Subcommittee

Executive Summary

Without intervention, New Mexico State University enrollments are likely to grow only modestly and only through the short run.

The current trend towards a more diverse student population is likely to continue.

Pursuit of future enrollment growth will almost certainly imply even greater student diversity in terms of age, socioeconomic status, and racial and ethnic statuses.

A variety of potential student "markets" are identified and discussed in the report. Pursuit of these markets would require clarification of our orientation towards growth, and imply new or different recruitment strategies for the institution. In some cases the strategies would raise fundamental questions about the mission and objectives of NMSU.

It is difficult to disentangle social and demographic trends from economic issues, especially in a state such as New Mexico where high levels of poverty impact strongly upon social and demographic patterns which in turn affect the institution. It is the sense of the subcommittee that the relatively weak condition of the New Mexico economy may well be, in many ways, the single greatest external threat to the institution.


The Strategic Planning Subcommittee on Social and Demographic External Factors considered volumes of data covering many different sources relating to a myriad of trends. Appended to this report is a listing of documents consulted by the committee. In many cases we obtained, from many helpful people, photocopies, and partial copies of reports and analyses. In our efforts we attempted to categorize the most important social and demographic factors, but we found that the opportunities and threats to higher education, generally, and New Mexico State University specifically, involve complex and interrelated trends and issues. Our report attempts to highlight major issues, and oversimplifies in adopting a point by point format for discussion of external forces.

New Mexico State University faces a variety of social and demographic forces which will affect the university. Whether these potential changes represent opportunities or threats is a matter of values and our committee has tried to remain neutral about the external trends we can identify. For example, slow enrollment growth or stability is the likely expectation for the first few years of the next century unless actions are taken to increase enrollments. Some may perceive stability as the desirable course. Others may argue that we should allow the university to manage some decline in enrollment in the face of reductions in resources while yet others may argue that we must intervene actively to offset the forces of stability and aggressively pursue enrollment growth.

One key issue for strategic planning is to decide what position New Mexico State University will take on the growth issue. Is NMSU pro-growth in enrollments? And, as will become clear in our observations, a related point for consideration is the implication of a pro-growth orientation for changing demographics at NMSU. For example, NMSU enrollments are unlikely to grow substantially in the longer run future without a dramatic shift to a highly diverse student population. We recommend that the Strategic Planning Committee, to which we report, adopt a position on the enrollment future which best fits the overall strategic plan.

Observation 1:

The New Mexico pool of persons at traditional college ages, 20-24, is expected to grow, modestly, through 2005.

Implication 1:

In the past, projections of college enrollments were closely connected to past birth patterns, altered over the years by net migration patterns of children who may subsequently be added to or subtracted from the potential pool of college-aged persons. Thus, one could look at numbers of younger-aged people as a guide to future enrollments in higher education. However, college enrollments, in New Mexico and nationally, are less connected to demographic trends by age than in the past.

Observation 2:

In New Mexico and the nation, the aging of the baby boom generation is the critical demographic trend for the next 30-40 years. Baby-boomers will begin retiring in about 15 years and can expect to live for many years beyond their 60s.

Implication 2:

Baby-boomers helped colleges and universities offset enrollment declines of traditional freshmen as they pursued completing college or sought career changes in the 1980s. Their retirement in great numbers, and subsequent many years of active life at older ages has important implications for society including issues such as the social security system, political implications, and implications for changing consumer product demand as well as changes in the service sector. Already, for example, we know that the health care industry is a likely growth sector for many years to come. Universities train people for many of these jobs. The baby boom generation is notable in the U.S. for its high levels of education. In the long run this generation, soon retired and perhaps not financially secure in retirement, may yet again wish to return to colleges and universities. Students in their 60s would almost certainly be motivated and attracted by very different factors than are students at traditional ages.

Observation 3:

The age-based pool for traditional college students will show increasing percentages of minority persons, especially Hispanics and Native Americans. Future migration patterns affecting the state are unlikely to alter this expectation.

Implication 3:

We need only look at the racial and ethnic composition of today's primary and secondary classes in New Mexico to see the potential changes ahead. In 1990, overall, New Mexico was 37.1 percent Hispanic while the figure for ages 10-14 is almost 46 percent. Based upon U.S. Census Bureau estimates, migration patterns for the state are not so dramatic as to suggest disruption of the expectation of growing minority proportions for high school ages. To disrupt the expectation would require substantial net inmigration of nonminority families with children. New Mexico State University has the highest percentage of Hispanic students among the three research universities in the state, and a growing Native American presence, and so must remain mindful of educational trends and special concerns for minority students. However, just because the age-based pool has growing minority percentages does not mean, necessarily, that this increasing diversity will be reflected on campuses in equal proportions.

Observation 4:

Retention of minorities in primary and especially secondary education is a serious concern in New Mexico. Dropout rates for minority students are high and college participation rates are relatively low. Nationally, only 61 percent of Hispanic students finish high school, the lowest rate of any of the largest minority groups. Taking age-based demographic trends and high school graduation rates of different racial and ethnic groups into account, projections for New Mexico show increases in numbers of high school graduates through 2001, and thereafter the numbers will decline through 2006.

Implication 4:

The future growth or decline in the size of the pool of high school graduates will depend more upon minority retention, especially in middle and high school grades, than age-based demographic trends. For example, in spite of demographic increases in the age-based pool in New Mexico, the absolute numbers of Native American high school graduates declined between 1991 and 1995. At a minimum, the qualification for higher education admission is to finish high school. With a growing minority percentage, and high drop out rates among minorities, we see a threat to a pro-growth orientation toward NMSU enrollments, and indeed, a threat to the future well-being of the State of New Mexico. High school dropouts are hardly positioned to contribute to the state's economy in the 21st century. In an effort to ensure positive benefits for the state, and if desired, protect the pool of college eligible numbers in the future, post-secondary education may wish to consider becoming involved in the drop-out issue in secondary education. As a land grant institution, NMSU has a service commitment to the state, and in partnership with the state and local school systems NMSU may be able to help design effective intervention strategies for our youth. The committee review suggests that the dropout phenomenon has been thoroughly researched and the causes are well-known. Higher education might assist in focusing public attention and policy on this issue.

Observation 5:

As the traditional pool of potential college students in the state becomes increasingly racially and ethnically diverse, additional structural impediments to higher education will become more important. Minority college entrance examination scores are, on average, not high. Poverty in this state is a serious problem, affecting all groups but demonstrably impacting especially Hispanics and Native Americans. Paradoxically, while per capita income grew more rapidly in New Mexico than national average during 1990-95, at the same time the state led the nation in the growth of the percentage of persons in poverty, jumping dramatically from fewer than one in five in 1993 to more than one in four state residents by 1995.

Implication 5:

To the extent possible, NMSU could be involved in the issues of academic preparation in the public schools, causes of examination score differentials, implications for entrance requirements, and the causes and consequences of poverty and poverty differentials in the state. Economic development is not a panacea for these problems. As we have seen, income can grow overall and still the plight of many can worsen. Development strategies with the potential to enrich the many are very important to mitigating potential declines in traditional student enrollments and the level of academic preparation of future students. In the short run, the availability of student financial assistance, and relative costs of institutions, are likely to be important enrollment trend determinants given our continuing, and indeed worsening, rates of poverty.

Observation 6:

Survey data for minorities show that these students are more likely than students from the majority group to report that college expenses, availability of financial aid, and admission requirements are "very important" when making college choices.

Implication 6:

If NMSU wishes to attract minorities to campus, it will be ever more important in the future to address the problem specifically of financial impediments to higher education, and more generally, the myriad of disadvantages which have been documented as facing minorities in pursuit of higher education.

Observation 7:

Even without intervention, the balance in the drift of social and demographic trends suggests a continuation of growth in nontraditional students including older persons, persons with marginal financial resources, and greater diversity in terms of race and ethnicity.

Implication 7:

It is not clear that faculty, staff and administration have a full understanding of what cultural, economic, and demographic diversity imply for their efforts. Many faculty, and administrators, were trained in research institutions in a time of much less diversity in student populations. To be sure, NMSU personnel have adapted to change in the last decade but most are "self-taught" in adapting to diversity and the University could provide more meaningful information and strategies to our workforce on campus. What should be the response of a faculty member who is presented with a student who quite honestly has no money to buy the text for the class, but who sits through each lecture diligently, only to do poorly on the exams? Such issues can be addressed through administrative leadership.

The faculty and administration serve as role models to students. We are not as diverse in our own demographic profile as are our students today and our student population will be even more diverse tomorrow. A diverse faculty, committed to working with diverse students, may constitute exactly the sort of environment appropriate for students who will live and work in the global economy.

Observation 8:

A significant portion of college bound New Mexico youth leave the state for colleges elsewhere. On balance, New Mexico has net outmigration of college students, meaning that more of our youth go elsewhere than other states' residents come here. This situation exists in spite of the fact that the surrounding states have much larger populations than New Mexico.

Implication 8:

We can hypothesize, lacking hard data, that the New Mexico outmigrant students are likely to possess academic talent, skills and abilities, have gained scholarships or tuition waivers through academic competition, and are pursuing degrees at "prestigious" national institutions. It would be desirable to identify the extent to which courtship of these students now lost to other states can prove successful, and at what cost. Demographically, El Paso is larger in population than Albuquerque, and has a younger age structure and thus represents an important potential market for NMSU.

And, with respect to retaining students instate, as well as attracting students from out of state, one cannot help but wonder if our economy, and imagined employment opportunities or lack of opportunities play an important role in the decision making of those leaving the state and those elsewhere who we do not attract. With students today citing the importance of job-related reasons for going to college, retention and recruitment may benefit from better communication of our record in providing employment.

Observation 9:

Junior and community colleges, branch campuses, technical and vocational colleges, by whatever name one uses, non-research institutions have seen dramatic increases in enrollments in the past several years in the nation and in New Mexico.

Implication 9:

Does NMSU want to recapture a share of the market now lost to these institutions? Their successes suggest that they are employing more adaptive strategies, and of course they have financial advantages to students as well as advantages of nearby location for many students. The fact that these institutions have done so well recently, in attracting numbers of students, is not surprising. The real question is whether or not we can and wish to maintain our traditional strength as a research institution while reasserting our "market share" of the pool of potential students. Two planning issues are involved. First, do we wish to compete with these other institutions for students who go to these institutions for their first couple of years of coursework? Second, do we want to be more aggressive in attracting the students from these other institutions for completion of a four year degree?

Observation 10:

The people of New Mexico, who expressed opinions in a recent survey, have a very favorable view of the quality of the state's universities and a relatively unfavorable view of the quality of public schools. However, more than one in five respondents had no opinion about the quality of the state's universities and the favorable ratings drop among the younger cohort in the data analysis, ages 18-34. The analysis included a breakdown by regions in the state and a remarkable finding is that in the southern region of the state relatively few respondents expressed "no opinion" and the favorable rating of universities was especially high.

Implication 10:

The fact that the public thinks highly of the state's universities is a double-edged sword. On the one hand is the view that we are doing fine. On the other hand is the likely implication that since we are doing well no additional resources are needed. The context of the poll was issues that concern registered voters in the state (just prior to the 1996 legislative session). Gangs, crime and prison overcrowding were the top concerns and these issues still capture the attention of legislators a year later. It will be an uphill struggle to convince the public that universities are in need of new resources. And, legislators are sensitive to public opinion.

We may also wonder how informed the public is with respect to issues related to higher education? Even though significant numbers in the survey said they had no opinion on the matter, the study did not delve into the knowledge base for respondents with opinions. Presumably, high school students who intend to go to college would be much more perceptive about higher education in this state (rightly or wrongly). The general survey did not distinguish between the research institutions and other institutions. We again note that enrollments grew dramatically at other institutions rather than research institutions, and significant numbers of students leave New Mexico for college elsewhere. Their opinions are being expressed with their feet.

Observation 11:

Nationally, graduate enrollments are expected to remain steady or drop slightly through 2005. Growth in foreign student enrollments slowed in the 1990s. NMSU, in fall 1996, had 36 undergraduate students from Mexico, fewer than from Saudi Arabia and especially surprising given the fact that UTEP enrolls more than 1,500 students from Mexico.

Implication 11:

National trends show no basis for a general upsurge in enrollment due to either of these factors. NMSU certainly may differ from national trends especially if we were to increase our commitment to these two enrollment sectors. Graduate education requires resources. Our location on the Mexican border places us near a numerically large and rapidly growing potential source of students. In spite of some scattered efforts and successes on campus, one would hardly realize that we are but 45 miles from a Mexican city of over a million people, the largest border city in Mexico.

Observation 12:

In many documentable ways the "value" of higher education in our society and economy remains high and indeed has increased. For the individual, in the nation and in New Mexico, a college degree means higher lifetime earnings and generally a better quality of life. Better educated individuals contribute more to society as better parents and citizens to name just a couple of the many data-based facts available in subcommittee documents. Nationally, education is a major contributor to economic growth in the U.S. and studies document the fact that local economies enjoy net additions of wealth, employment, and quality of life attributable to the presence of institutions of higher education. Yet, the public seems uncertain about the veracity of these claims and students can be quite cynical about future returns on their educational investment.

Implication 12:

NMSU, like most institutions of higher education, is "selling" a product to students (or sometimes their parents), elected officials, and the public. We should not formulate our sales pitch too narrowly for we found ample and impressive evidence of our value to individuals, communities, and society. If there is an external threat in this issue, it is a matter of false perceptions about the value of higher education.

Observation 13:

Professional, paraprofessional, and technical occupations which usually require college education are projected to grow rapidly in New Mexico through 2005, accounting for about 31 percent of total employment growth or more than 50,000 jobs. Specific fields which require college education and are expected to grow include health care, computers and electronics, and education. However, a significant amount of employment growth in New Mexico remains in occupations without need for higher education and with relatively low wages. Across all occupational categories projected, the three top growth jobs in New Mexico were projected to be "retail salespersons," "waiters and waitresses," and "cashiers."

Implication 14:

NMSU may not be able to count on the New Mexico economy to serve the employment needs of students in terms of quantity or quality of jobs. In fact, the New Mexico economy may well be, overall, the single greatest external threat to the University. The concept of "land grant mission" for the institution could be interpreted narrowly as preparing state residents for contribution to the state's economy, or more broadly, as preparing students to participate in a rapidly changing global economy. These alternative visions of the mission imply different models for our institutional future. The more narrow interpretation would imply capitalizing on a fairly narrow range of specialties and local employment forecasts would be important in guiding institutional planning. The broader interpretation of our mission emphasizes a more general, indeed global, approach and thus less concern for the year to year fluctuations in job forecasts for the state.


Document Log

Subcommittee on Social and Demographic External Factors

Strategic Planning

"Evaluating Institutional Planning" R.C. Shirley

"Strategic Planning: An Overview" R.C. Shirley

"Strategic and Operational Reform in Public Higher Education: A Mandate for Change" R.C. Shirley

Example subcommittee report from University of Central Florida

Example subcommittee report from University of Tulsa

"Meeting the Demand for Higher Education Without Breaking the Bank." W. Zumeta. Journal of Higher Education. 67(4): 1996.

Strategic Planning and Budgeting.

"Approaches to Environmental Scanning." T.V. Mecca. in Doing Academic Planning, B. Nedwek, ed. SCUP, 1996.

Planning for the Class of 2005... Strategic Plan for Higher Education in N.M. CHE. 1988.

"Summary of Results of Survey of Deans and Administrative Council Members for President's Spring Retreat, 1996. NMSU.

Twenty-eight photocopied articles related to strategic planning provided to the subcommittee and available from the general strategic planning document collection of the Strategic Planning Committee.

Population, Enrollment

"Higher Education's Landscape: Demographic Issues in the 1990s." References WICHE data from 1988 and NCES data from 1992.

"1995 Condition of Higher Education in New Mexico" CHE

MPO Population projections for planning areas and incorporated places in Dona Ana County.

State estimates of population by age from 1990 to 1994. Census and You v30(4).

Population Projections to 2010 for New Mexico Counties by Age, Sex and Ethnicity. Peach and Williams, April 1994.

Population Projections to 2010 for U.S.-Mexico Border Counties and Municipios. Williams, Eastman and Peach. April 1994. Includes El Paso and Cd. Juarez.

Population Projections for the Age and Sex, 1990-2020. UNM, May, 1994

High School Graduates. Projections by state for 1992-2009. WICHE, TIAA, TCB. 1993

Projections of College Enrollment...1994-2005. U.S. Department of Education. Page copied.

"Chapter 2: Higher Education Enrollment." Projections of Education Statistics to 2004. D. Gerald and W. Hussar. National Center for Education Statistics.

Comparison of actual H.S. graduates in N.M. and WICHE projections. Page copied. IRP.

High school graduates by ethnicity and school type, 1990-91 to 1994-95. Page copied.

NMSU Undergraduate Enrollment Task Force, Final Report. Dec. 1996.

Regional Fact Book for Higher Education in the West. WICHE, Aug. 1996

"The Condition of Education 1996. Size, Growth and Output." Internet document.

Data tables: Residence and migration. Digest of Education Statistics. U.S. NCES, 1995

Data tables: SAT score averages. Digest of Education Statistics. U.S. NCES, 1995.

Data tables: Enrollment in public...schools. Digest of Education Statistics. U.S. NCES, 1995.

Data tables: Dropout and poverty rates. Digest of Education Statistics. U.S. NCES, 1995.

Data tables: NMSU Enrollment by College, Level, and Ethnicity, 1986 and 1991, including locations of origins. IRP, March, 1997.

"Admissions Standards and their Effects." Handout from IRP.

"Not Just for Kids: The Impact of the Baby Boomers and Their Return to the Classroom." Community College Journal, Feb/Mar, 1997.

"A Record Number of Foreign Students Enrolled at U.S. Colleges Last Year: Even so, Educators Worry that the Rate of Increase Has Slowed Dramatically." P. Desruisseaux. The Chronicle of Higher Education. December 6, 1996.

"Private Colleges in the Northeast See a Surprising Surge in Enrollment." M. Geraghty. The Chronicle of Higher Education. September 20, 1996.

Social, Race/Ethnic, Economic

Hispanics in Higher Education ERIC Digest

"The Changing Milieu for Education Planning." G. Keller. Planning for Higher Education.

23(Winter): 1994-95.

Public Policy Poll, N.M. Research & Polling, Inc.

Attitudes/occupational expectations. Digest of Education Statistics. U.S. NCES, 1995.

"Wage Premiums for College Graduates: Recent Growth and Possible Explanations." K. Murphy and F. Welch. Educational Researcher, May, 1989.

"Introduction and Summary." The Economic Value of Higher Education. Leslie and ?. ACE/Macmillan, 1988.

"Industrial Change and the Rising Importance of Skill." K. Murphy and F. Welch. Chapter 3 from Uneven Tides: Rising Inequality in America. S. Danziger and P. Gottschalk, eds. Russell Sage Foundation, New York. 1993.

"Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors." L. Katz and K. Murphy. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. Feb. 1992.

"Racial and Ethnic Distributions of 10th Graders' Responses to College-Related Questions in the 1990 Survey of NELS:88." M. Mora. Working Paper, March, 1997.

"Attendance, Schooling Quality, and the Demand for Education of Mexican Americans, African Americans, and Non-Hispanic Whites." M. Mora. forthcoming, Economics of Education Review, 16(4): December, 1997.

"Who are Hispanic Americans?" from Our Nation on the Fault Line: Hispanic American Education. A Report to the President of the United States, the Nation, and the Secretary of Education. President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. ca. 1996.

"The Largest Minority." T. Exter. American Demographics, Feb. 1993.

"High School Completion Rates" and "College Participation Rates" from Minorities in Higher Education, 1994, Thirteenth Annual Status Report. American Council on Education, Office of Minorities in Higher Education, March, 1995.

ERIC summary of Chicanos in Higher Education: Issues and Dilemmas for the 21st Century. A. Aguirre and R. Martinez. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 3. 1993.

"Finances are Becoming More Crucial in Students' College Choice, Survey Finds." M. Geraghty. The Chronicle of Higher Education. January 17, 1997.

"Study Finds That 29% of Freshmen Take Some Remedial Instruction." L. Guernsey. The Chronicle of Higher Education. November 1, 1996.

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