Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Enrollment Dips

Summer enrollment was down from 2011, with a recorded head count of 690 students this year, as opposed to 790 last year. Credit hours are likewise down from 3712 in Summer 2011 to 3215.

“The availability of financial aid and the changes in Title IV have affected our summer enrollment,” said Zeke Garcia, director of Student Services. “Students have run out of Pell [grant funding] due to the length of time it took them to complete their programs. Some ran out because they changed their educational goals. The new regulations on the number of allowable semesters to be eligible for Pell had an impact, as did the fact some courses students may have needed were not offered this summer.”

Garcia said all the UNMG branch campuses experienced a decline in summer enrollment, but that UNMG’s enrollment had declined less than the others did.

Friday, June 8, 2012

TRiO Opens Door to College Success

Leah Kayonnie receives a TRiO stole from TRiO Program Manager Jayme McMahon.

During recent commencement exercises for the University of New Mexico-Gallup, spectators strained to pick out their friends and relations from the sea of red gowns in the arena. That sea of red represented in toto the Class of 2012, but as with any graduating class, it was made up of individuals – each one with a story to tell. And for many of those, the story is about walking a road fraught with challenges, from the time they entered the front door of UNMG to the crowning moment when they received a diploma on the stage at Red Rock Park.

Some of the more touching stories of the Class of 2012 could be told by the 12 students who had draped around their necks a red and white stole awarded by the TRiO program. It’s the first time that participants in this federally funded outreach program for disadvantaged students have been distinguished thus for successfully completing their course work. Prior to the graduation ceremony with their classmates, they had their own ceremony in Gurley Hall where TRiO Program Manager Jayme McMahon and her staff handed out the stoles to students who were ready to graduate.

Although each TRiO student’s story is unique, there are startling similarities. A number have enrolled as older adults for a second try at college, having been too immature or too distracted after high school to succeed at their first attempt. Many have backgrounds that include problems such as domestic violence or substance abuse among family members. And almost all need help brushing up on their basic academic skills, such as reading, writing and math.

“Many students enter college with self-doubt; they doubt their intelligence, their confidence, and their ability to be successful,” McMahon said. “They doubt their choices, their path, their future plans. This doubt is very apparent when they make the decision to apply for the TRiO program, but once they complete their intake session and realize that this doubt is common – and normal – and that there is a support system in place to help them succeed with people who truly care about them and their success, we see a dramatic shift. “
TRiO provides a number of services for these students, including advisement regarding financial aid, academics, careers and transfer. Staff tutor students in English and math, and help improve computer skills. Further, TRiO provides loans of scientific calculators and laptops, and offers workshops and supplemental instruction.

Building strong, positive relationships among their peers is considered an important factor in how successful the students are, so TRiO also offers cultural enrichment activities and field trips. McMahon said the program takes transfer trips to Albuquerque, and also takes students to attend shows at Popejoy Hall, to attend the Gathering of Nations and to go to museums. For some, these trips are the first times they’ve ever attended a live event. The UNMG TRiO program also takes part of National TRiO day by taking students to Santa Fe to celebrate TRiO programs and advocate for funding. Students have the opportunity to meet with legislators and experience the political process; they also take part in professional development sessions with fellow TRiO students from around the state.

“We try to have a holistic approach when working with students,” she says.
Certainly the student testimonials in support of TRiO give strong evidence that the program is working.

Valerie Yazzie, who recently graduated from UNM with an Associate of Science degree in Health Information Technology, is typical of older students who turn to TRiO to help them gain confidence in college.

“When I first enrolled, I didn’t know where I was going, what classes to take. My cousins, Wilma Lee and Gary Lee [also TRiO students and recent graduates], showed me the TRiO program. They signed me up, helped me schedule classes, and showed me the ropes on how college is,” Lee said. She found help with math and English as well as computers.

“I didn’t finish high school. I got a GED. Computers were foreign to me, and it had been 15 years since I got my GED,” she says.

But from the moment she walked into the door, help was waiting. Lenette Sheyka, the administrative assistant, greeted her and made her feel welcome. Other staff engaged her not just as advisors and tutors but in a way that made her feel part of the TRiO family by talking to her, calling her, emailing and making sure her needs were met.

“I had a lot of doubts,” Lee recalls. “Every semester, I would think, I can’t do it. But then I would find the motivation to try harder.”

The support of her TRiO cohort was of immense importance to her success, says Lee.
“When you get there, you’re all in the same classes, or maybe we all have the same teacher even if it’s at a different time. We brain storm back and forth with the tutor,” Lee said, explaining that studying with her peers not only gave her confidence but helped her assimilate the material she was exposed to in class.

Leah Kayonnie, who earned her Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts in Fall 2011 and is going on for a Bachelor’s degree in Business at Extended University, found TRiO more helpful in advising her on transferability issues.

“I really didn’t need tutoring, but I noticed some of the TRiO students and I wanted to be part of it. I asked one, and they told me about it. I decided to apply, I qualified, and was glad to be in,” she says.

“It was a great way to meet new people,” Kayonnie said. “If I needed help, I could go to Jayme or to another staff member. They told me about college and scholarships, how to look for them, step by step. They gave me insight into different universities and different programs, helping me figure out what I wanted to do. It was a really excellent program and helped steer me in the right direction.”

TRiO, which was started in the 1960’s, has been a UNMG fixture for more than a decade. Currently, it serves 160 students each year, and there is always a waiting list.

“We serve first generation college students,” McMahon said. “They often do not have a great support system. We try to help them achieve balance between their personal obligations and family and school.”

Data consistently prove that TRiO helps UNMG students stay in school and to transfer into baccalaureate programs.

“In addition to the many services we provide students, we also strive to help build confidence and empower students so they know it is possible to overcome barriers,” McMahon said, adding “it is possible to change the course of one’s life and one’s future. We begin to see a sense of resiliency emerge from our students, and they begin to accept that they no longer have to be victims of circumstance. They have the power to create change.”