Rutgers GSE CMSI

New Report Explores the Current State of Minority Serving Institutions in New Mexico

New Brunswick, N.J., October 11, 2019—New Mexico has recently announced a plan to make public college and university tuition-free for all of the state’s residents. Given the recent announcement, understanding the landscape of higher education in the state is essential to understanding the impact of this initiative and similar programs aimed at making college more accessible for all students. The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) has released a new report that provides an overview of the Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) in New Mexico and offers a synopsis for how these institutions differ in creating access to post-secondary education across the state.

Using the state’s demographic and economic data to ground the discussion, the report, titled Embracing Diversity to Build a Better Future: Minority Serving Institutions in New Mexico, delves into New Mexico’s exigency to continue to invest in higher education and strengthen its pathways to post-secondary success. According to the report, New Mexico is a majority-minority state with 48% of the population identifying as Hispanic or Latinx and 9% of the population identifying as American Indian. New Mexico is also one of the lowest-income states in the country, with a per capita personal income of $39,811, making it the 48th poorest state in the nation.

“New Mexico is a state where a large share of residents is low-income, the state also has very low social mobility and high income inequality. These data paint a portrait of a state in need of economic social justice. For New Mexico, investing in students who need additional financial supports could be a route for increasing economic parity and providing a viable path for upward mobility,” shared the report’s lead author, Virginia R. Hunter.

The report also provides insight into the state’s political landscape. In New Mexico, degree attainment rates are below the national average: 34.2%, compared to 38.8% nationwide, and only 85% of the population over the age of 25 have a high school credential. Despite the state’s educational disparities, New Mexico has many strengths related to educational access, including a high college continuation rate, inclusive admission standards, efforts aimed at decreasing remediation, and affordable college options.

Access to college and degree attainment vary by race and ethnicity in New Mexico and much of the educational disparities exist in communities of color, particularly in Latinx and American Indian populations. For many of these students, access to post-secondary education is offered by one of the state’s many MSIs. All of New Mexico’s public institutions are federally-designated MSIs, a total of 28 colleges and universities.

The report explains that across the state, MSIs are funded through state, local, and federal appropriations, as well as tuition dollars, a source that these institutions are becoming increasingly dependent on. With state funding cuts and recent statewide enrollment declines, many MSIs are required to eliminate positions, rely more on part-time faculty members, and reduce student support services, the report contends. MSIs are also required to navigate the state’s shift to outcomes-based funding, which seeks to incentivize institutions for increasing student credit hours and degree conferment, increasing STEM and health degree completion, and graduating more Pell-eligible and financially at-risk students. Many believe that this funding can be more detrimental than beneficial, especially for small institutions that must compete for resources with larger institutions.

“What is happening in higher education in New Mexico is a microcosm of the contemporary changes happening across the nation,” said Marybeth Gasman, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair, Distinguished Professor, and the Executive Director for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity, and Justice and the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions. “The reality is that institutions are working harder than ever to secure funding, cultivate student success, and remain competitive. As institutions shift to meet the growing needs of society, it is imperative that we improve efforts and advocate for more resources to better serve students.”

Community college and tribal college funding are also discussed in the report. Many community colleges receive inadequate local funding and are required to secure mill levies to operate. According to the report, tribal colleges do not receive state appropriations, are not included in outcomes-based funding, and do not receive mill levies. With such limited funding sources, both institution types are faced with challenges related to being underfunded. The report goes on to share some of the financial aid programs the state offers and explains which MSIs and students most benefit from them.

The report concludes with recommendations on closing New Mexico’s achievement gap and provides policymakers with helpful advice on how the state can emerge as a leader in providing equitable educational opportunities for all students. Some of the recommendations include evaluating the existing educational system and assessing its efforts to closing equity gaps, having a planned approach to tuition increases and state funding reductions, making alterations to the Lottery Scholarship to bolster its effect on low-income students, as well as helping the sustainability and growth of local community colleges.

Full copies of the report are freely available on our site here.

About the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions

The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. CMSI’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities. The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions is part of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity and Justice (Proctor Institute) at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. For further information about CMSI, please visit

Friday, October 11, 2019
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