A new hope has emerged in Albuquerque around increasing college degree completion rates and providing opportunities for low-income students to obtain the skills necessary to thrive in the ever evolving labor market.

Only one in seven students who transfer from a community college to a four-year institution go on to complete a bachelor’s degree. Even fewer students go on to complete a graduate degree. Yet, across the United States nearly 50% of graduates of two-year degree programs desire additional education to further their workforce opportunities.

Students cite that the main reason they do not complete–or choose not to attempt–a four-year degree is the lack of a path to completion, with the necessary supports. The opportunity for upward mobility through education is even bleaker for students of color and first generation college students.

Here are the facts: nearly 40% of community college students are students of color and 65% of first generation college students attend two-year institutions.

A new hope has emerged in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the form of The University of New Mexico innovationAcademy. InnovationAcademy facilitates a joint program between Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) and the University of New Mexico (UNM). It provides a pathway for students to transition from an Associate’s Degree to a Bachelor of Liberal Arts (BLA) degree and ultimately a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in a total of five years via the 2+1+2 program.

The program not only allows students an expedited path through the three degree programs, but has a few unique features that will ease the transition between the degree paths while creating unique value for students interacting with the 2+1+2 cohort.

Pathway for 2+1+2 Program

Step 1: Student completes 12 credits of community college coursework with 3.0 GPA.

Step 2: Student applies to 2+1+2 program

Step 3: Student completes Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree at Central New Mexico Community College (including New Mexico 37 credit “core”)

Step 4: In the third year of studies, student begins prescribed coursework in the Bachelor of Liberal Arts program at the University of New Mexico

Step 5: In the fourth year of studies student completes BLA coursework and begins MBA coursework (that will count toward both degrees), student graduates with BLA.

Step 6: In the fifth and final year, student completes MBA coursework, graduates with MBA.

Overarching this entire process is the core feature of this program—a dedicated advisor to mentor and guide the student through ALL THREE degree programs. Students will have the same advisor, housed at the innovationAcademy at InnovateABQ in the heart of Albuquerque’s burgeoning Innovation District, for all three degree programs. Research demonstrates that continuity in advisement is the key contributor to academic success and degree completion. An investment in this program will not only result in a significant amount of students matriculating to UNM and obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree, it will also allow a path to a graduate degree that might otherwise be unattainable. The innovationAcademy is focused on experiential learning and brings with its participation a university-wide internship program, opportunities to intern with startup companies or go on a semester-long co-op to work for a large company such as the Walt Disney Company via our unique programs.

Students in the innovationAcademy have the opportunity to develop their own business ideas within their degree program.

Interaction among students from the 2+1+2 program with other students at the University of New Mexico in the innovationAcademy is another valuable add-on to the program. 2+1+2 students scaffold their learning from technical and applied knowledge (AA, AS, AAS) to an interdisciplinary understanding of their skills and interests (BLA) and finally to a high level, leadership-focused understanding of the competitive landscape (MBA). All this is completed within the context of creating their own opportunities for economic growth and development through innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. For example, students in the innovationAcademy have the opportunity to develop their own business ideas within their degree program. Students can enroll in an entrepreneurial internship course, or supplement their skill set within their selected degree program.

Significant Cost Savings

This program provides a significant cost savings for traditionally debt-strapped students. In New Mexico, there are many programs to support low-income students, but with a developing economy, it is important to understand the realities of financing higher education. Through the 2+1+2 Program, a graduate of a New Mexico High School on the Lottery Scholarship (currently awarded to all graduates of New Mexico High Schools with a 2.5 GPA) can complete all three degrees (including incidental course, university and differential fees) for slightly below $20,000. This is far below the average debt of a New Mexico four-year college grad of $28,000 and significantly lower than the average cost of an AACSB (the gold-standard in MBA programs, UNM’s Business School holds this accreditation) MBA, which comes in between $45,000-$60,000 for only the graduate degree. Even without the lottery scholarship, students can complete all three programs for right around $30,000.

The evolving labor market demands skill based education which conventionally operates in opposition to our traditional model of credentialing. As Albuquerque develops its ecosystem, there will be significant demand for graduate degree holders. With the 2+1+2 Program we can provide skill development within a framework of traditional credentials to provide mobility for those who historically may not have been able to pursue their education. The 2+1+2 program provides the skills necessary to thrive in the ever evolving labor market under a banner of highly respected credentials.

Published: November 10, 2016
Category: Blog
Contributors: Robert DelCampo