Higher Education Department announces all general education courses will transfer in NM

Stephanie Montoya
Curriculum eases student process, saves time and money toward a degree

The New Mexico Higher Education Department has announced that all general education courses completed by students at state public colleges and universities will now satisfy general education requirements at any other New Mexico public institution to which a student transfers. 

The new statewide general education curriculum satisfies the requirements of a 2017 law requiring the department to establish and maintain a comprehensive list of lower-division courses and to create a process for colleges and universities to submit courses to be included in the curriculum.  

“This is an exciting step forward for higher education in New Mexico that will enable students to start and finish their college education without having to waste time or money on courses that would not have counted toward a degree at their destination college or university,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said. “I thank the faculty and staff who came together to ensure a more seamless experience for students while also maintaining quality of education.”  

While the New Mexico Higher Education Department approves the degree programs a higher education institution may offer, required courses for satisfying degree requirements can vary between schools. Ensuring that all colleges could give credit to transfer students for any prior general education coursework required years of collaboration between the department and the faculty and staff from the state’s 30 public and Tribal colleges, research universities, comprehensive colleges, branch campuses, and independent community colleges.   

To attain either a two-year or four-year degree, students must complete coursework in six approved general education areas of study, including math, science, social and behavioral science, humanities, communications, and creative and fine arts. The new general education curriculum includes skills considered essential for student success in the workforce and in life, including communication, critical thinking, digital literacy, and personal and social responsibility. 

“The challenge really was to review general education in terms of essential and transferrable skills,” said David Smith, Assistant Provost for Curriculum and Assessment at New Mexico State University. “Improving transfer pathways will also help more students attain higher degrees, and the new state model supports this.” 

“Creating a common general education curriculum was essential for establishing a transfer process that is more seamless for students,” said Roberto Vasquez, Director for Transfer Pathways at Central New Mexico Community College. “We have established a curriculum that helps students gain strong foundational skills, while also being successful in their chosen field.” 

Smith and Vasquez both served on New Mexico’s Curriculum and Articulation Committee. Vasquez said that CNM and other colleges are examining transfer patterns to determine how to better serve students, and waiting to see how the pandemic affects student transfer patterns statewide.  Smith said that a sizable proportion of NMSU’s enrolled population transfer in from its branch campuses, other state community colleges, and out-of-state colleges such as the University of Texas – El Paso.  

Students transfer between institutions for various reasons, such as completing general education requirements or an associate degree at a local community college and continuing toward a bachelor’s degree in their desired field at a four-year college or university. Other students begin their journey at an open-admissions college and build credit and skills toward admission to a research institution.  

Students pursuing associate of arts and bachelor's degrees must complete 31 credit hours, or about ten courses in general education, while students pursuing associate of applied science degrees must complete 15 credits, or around five courses. 

The Higher Education Department continues to work with the New Mexico Curriculum and Articulation Committee on its ongoing Common Course Numbering System, a matrix of first and second-year courses with common numbering designed to ease the transfer process beyond general education requirements.