Eastern New Mexico University in Portales is reducing the number of hours required for graduation for the majority of degree programs from 128 to 120 hours, starting with the fall 2015 undergraduate catalog.
Jamie Laurenz, vice president for Academic Affairs, said, "There's been a national movement in terms of the number of hours required for degrees. Many states have moved to 120 hours. Folks in New Mexico have wanted to do the same thing.
"Our faculty and administration have been discussing this since last spring."
He said there were two meetings with the Board of Regents this summer in which ENMU provided them background information on the curriculum changes. Every two years ENMU revises its undergraduate catalog and studies these types of issues.
"We feel we can move to 120 hours with a majority of our programs, because it's not the number of hours that makes the degree. It comes back to what we intend, what outcomes we want students to achieve," the vice president said. "When a graduate walks across that stage and gets their degree, what does it mean? Our degrees show what they know, what they can do, appreciate and value.
"Our faculty members have been really good at looking at the final product. There are courses that students need to take to reach our defined outcomes, but we've been streamlining the curriculum," he explained. "We've been cautious about not creating obstacles for our students,
like unnecessary prerequisites and course rotations.
Laurenz said the objective for this reduction in required hours is to have students finish their degrees in a timelier manner. ENMU is hoping this will reduce the cost of college for students, since they can potentially reduce by a semester tuition, living costs and travel expenses.
"We're going to be as focused as we can in implementing this. We're going to be upfront with students. The fall 2015 catalogs will explicitly state the number of hours," he explained. "Students who are already enrolled can move to the newer catalog when it is released.
"I haven't found a student who is against these changes," observed Dr. Laurenz, who will visit with the Associated Students of ENMU this fall to get their opinions on the shorter degree plans.
Laurenz said not all programs will be able to move to 120 hours. For some programs, the need to meet accrediting standards and/or state requirements limit the number of hours that can be cut from the curriculum. An example is secondary education, where the need to meet state licensure requirements dictate a higher number of hours.
"We also have to look at institutional requirements. We can't really touch the general educational requirements, but we are looking at courses like Health and Physical Education 142: Fundamentals of Physical Well-Being, Information Systems 151: Basic Computer Skills, the advisory requirement and the upper-division global diversity credit," Laurenz explained. "We have to ask: 'Are these courses so valuable to our student's education that every student should be required to take them?'
"Our faculty is fully committed to the success of students; they'll look at this objectively," he said. "If we impact the quality of education, the faculty will be the first to let us know. My hat's off to them."