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NMMI fall enrollment is down slightly; Official: In recent years, number of students from Mexico declined almost 40 percent; number of Academy Prep students dropped 80 percent

Fall 2017 enrollment for the New Mexico Military Institute is down 2.9 percent, to 857 cadets. Some new cadets are seen here during the first day of fall classes Aug. 14. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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New Mexico Military Institute has seen a slight decrease in enrollment this year, which a senior administrator attributed to several factors, including fewer cadets from Mexico as a result of political and economic factors and a significant drop in the number of students entering the Institute as part of preparatory programs for military academies.

The fall 2017 enrollment at the public institution totals 857, down 2.9 percent from fall 2016, according to information released by NMMI. The five-year average enrollment is 905, which represents 94 percent of available beds for the boarding school. High school students represent 419, or 48.9 percent, of the fall enrollment, while junior college students number 438, 51.1 percent of cadets.
“NMMI can’t control the situations such as decisions by federal academies, a country’s economic situation or a young person’s thousands of additional choices such as online instruction,” said Chief of Staff Col. David West in an email, “but we have and will continue to offer one of the best academic programs structured within a military leadership learning environment, which we feel best assures a young person’s success in life.”
West explained that enrollment of students from Mexico has declined almost 40 percent in two years because of changing political and economic situations, while the number of Academy Prep program students has dropped by 80 percent during the past four years from a high of 100 cadets.
NMMI also accepted fewer students who completed applications this year, admitting 83 percent for the 2017-18 academic year, down 7 percent from the 2016 acceptance rate.
West said that NMMI has taken several actions to increase enrollment. Those include lowering tuition fees for New Mexico residents, which now stands at $12,373 a year for new cadets before scholarships or other aid and about $2,000 less a year for returning residents. NMMI also is providing in-state tuition offers to veterans and to out-of-state college applicants who score a 22 or higher on the ACT.

Foreign students continue to make up a significant number of the cadets. This year, students from 31 foreign counties represent 20.7 percent of the corps. New Mexico students make up another 30 percent. The remaining cadets come from other U.S. states and territories, primarily Texas, Florida, California and Arizona.
West also indicated that NMMI has achieved recognition for both its high school and college programs. The College Completion website of the Chronicle of Higher Education indicates that NMMI has the highest on-time completion rate of the 19 two-year public colleges in New Mexico. According to 2013 data, first-time, full-time college cadets finishing degrees within two years was 42.5 percent. NMMI scores among the top 4 percent of U.S. public two-year colleges for that completion rate.
The high school program, meanwhile, has produced students scoring 2 percent above the state average on the composite ACT, a college-readiness assessment test often relied on by college admissions offices, West said. The national average ACT score for 2016-17 was 21, according to ACT Inc., while the New Mexico state average was 19.7.
NMMI Regents and staff have discussed at past meetings ways to increase retention, given that 15 years of data indicate that only 49.49 percent of all cadets continue on after two semesters. Staff said the reasons for that are numerous, including negative factors such as dismissal for poor grades, to positive factors such as early graduation. But, as part of the effort to boost retention, senior leadership have said that they have worked to better define the Institute’s mission and vision, including clarifying that it does not serve primarily as a preparatory school for military academies.
NMMI is the only state-funded coeducational boarding military school in the United States. It is one of four military junior college in the United States with an Early Commissioning Program enabling cadets to become commissioned officers in the U.S. Army after two years. Many other military high schools exist nationwide.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.