Serving the High Plains

Mesalands total enrollment drops 26%

Overall enrollment at Mesalands Community College fell 26% in the fall semester compared to a year ago, though on-campus enrollment rose sharply during the same period.

Josh McVey, vice president of student affairs, gave those findings during his annual enrollment management report at the Mesalands board of trustees meeting last Wednesday.

Total enrollment this fall was 586, down from 791 in fall 2022.

McVey wrote in his report “this is due to reducing our dual enrollment services to high schools in our region” during cost-cutting moves this year by the financially troubled college.

The report stated the number of dual-enrollment students declined from 323 to 131 — a nearly 60% drop.

However, on-campus enrollment at Mesalands jumped from 157 last fall to 251 now — a 60% increase.

McVey said the number of full-time students fell just slightly, and the number of full-time equivalent students didn’t see decreases as steep as total enrollment’s.

McVey reported a 34% decline in enrollment at corrections facilities that are “going through changes.”

Interim President Allen Moss said one corrections facility that had a big effect on Mesalands’ enrollment count sent out wrong documentation.

Joel Kiser, vice president of academic affairs, said he anticipates new programs at corrections facilities will increase its enrollment again.

In other business:

— During his president’s report, Moss cautioned the college’s most recent cash-flow statement contains some discrepancies, including one entry that states about $1 million in checking while another part states just $67,000 available in that account.

Moss said the spreadsheet contains “things we don’t have right” — signaling years of poor bookkeeping at the college being rectified — but added: “I feel we’re in much better position than those statements are showing.”

Moss said the state legislature earlier this year made $1.2 million special appropriation for the college that hasn’t been used except for an initial $400,000 during a cash flow shortage.

He said Mesalands probably will use “a little more” of those funds.

“I feel good where we’re at now, but we have a lot of (fiscal) year to go,” he said, noting that whatever funds won’t be used would go back to the state’s general fund.

Moss also expressed optimism the 2022 audit report would be finished this week.

As the board approved the quarterly financial actions report, Chairman Richard Primrose said “it looks a lot better than the last report.” The board also approved its October financial report.

— Denise Hackett, executive director of institutional research and accreditation, said reported on the Higher Learning Commission’s mandatory on-site visit after Mesalands was deemed financially distressed.

Hackett said the HLC will not visit again until the spring 2025.

“We have things to work on, but we are fully accredited,” she said, though a report from Moss states the accreditation is probationary.

“One thing to note is that the team visiting reported that many issues have been fixed or being corrected, they would like to see this continue for longer,” Moss wrote in his report.

Hackett also said the college received a draft report by Lightcast and New Mexico Independent Community Colleges on a financial impact report concerning Mesalands.

Mesalands’ return on investment is $8 per every $1 spent on graduates, which is “on the high end” of other colleges.

“It was a great report,” Primrose said.

— Mark Martinez, executive director of operations and procurement, said the college’s insurance adjuster is working to possibly streamline procurement and settle claims from May’s hailstorm.

Martinez said he was told workers would begin repairs on the wind-energy building within 30 days, but he expressed concerns about damage to other buildings.

— Jessica Gonzales, executive director of admissions and financial aid, gave a financial aid report, which reveals “a big jump” in state aid due to the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship.

Gonzales noted more students were increasing their hours at Mesalands to meet eligibility requirements of the state scholarship program.

— Joel Kiser, vice president of academic affairs, said the college is continuing commercial driver’s license testing, and it was only “a matter of time” before the college acquires a semi-tractor trailer for additional CDL testing or certification.

— Janet Griffiths, faculty senate president, said she talked to Loni Monahan, curator of the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum. Monahan said the number of visitors at the museum saw “a big increase” after three new billboards advertising the museum were erected along Interstate 40.

Monahan also was implementing a family pass for the museum, and it would hold a 20% off sale for merchandise from Dec. 1 to Dec. 24.

— Dean Garcia, staff senate president, reported “a lot of positive momentum” and improved morale that made them hopeful for the coming spring semester.

— The board approved the college’s administrative handbook and personnel handbook. Moss said an attorney needs to review both documents, but the board can approve any needed changes at a later date.

— The board voted to move a regular meeting from March 19 to March 12 due to the college’s spring break.

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