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Online education is booming across the country, and New Mexico educators are embracing that trend. Steps are being made to help prepare students as early as high school for a post-secondary degree, and the state's colleges and universities are offering numerous distance learning courses and programs for students who want to earn online degrees in New Mexico.

Online Colleges in New Mexico

When it comes to the increase in online learning, New Mexico is no exception. Many of its brick-and-mortar colleges and universities have paved the way for students to easily access online degrees in New Mexico from the convenience of their computers. The state is helping to prepare New Mexico's students to attend these colleges and universities in high school by encouraging them to consider seeking traditional or online degrees in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Higher Education Department's GEAR UP program (gearupnm.org) -- Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs in New Mexico -- focuses on getting more of the state's high school students ready for college and career programs. Through tutors, college visits, career fairs, enrichment programs, family outreach and college counseling, GEAR UP works to increase the high school gradation rate of New Mexico students, improve their academic performance and advance their postsecondary education preparation. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the New Mexico Higher Education Department (hed.state.nm.us), GEAR UP is expected to help about 11,000 New Mexico students better prepare for college over the next several years.

Trends in Online Schools in New Mexico

Online education has been growing by leaps and bounds: More than 6.7 million students took one or more online classes in 2011, about 570,000 more than the year before. Thirty-two percent of higher education students took at least one online course, according to a recent study from the Sloan Consortium (sloanconsortium.org). Plus, nearly 70 percent of chief academic leaders say online learning is critical to their long-term strategy, and almost 80 percent of education leaders say online learning has the same or better learning outcome as traditional brick-and-mortar courses, according to the study.

New Mexico is part of that trend, with many of the state colleges and universities offering expansive online education programs. The University of New Mexico, for instance, offers online degrees and classes in dozens of categories from nursing to education to electrical and computer engineering. The courses and online degree programs are part of New Mexico University's Extended University, which has been involved with online learning for more than 15 years. The Extended University's New Media and Extended Learning unit even boasts an academic video conferencing center, video on demand, faculty training, and other tools and services to help develop and promote online education for students seeking online degrees in New Mexico.

College Degrees in New Mexico

New Mexico college and university administrators know that it can pay to have a postsecondary education. GEAR UP New Mexico's website touts census numbers showing the average annual income for high school graduates is $33,000, while it's nearly $54,000 for someone with a bachelors degree. About a quarter of New Mexico's residents have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (www.census.gov). More than 80 percent have a high school diploma.

The state's colleges and universities have added programs, courses and even departments or colleges that cater to online learning, making their classes more accessible to students who live in remote areas or who are juggling full-time jobs, families and hectic schedules in addition to school.

Online College in New Mexico

Online schools in New Mexico and around the country are gaining enormous traction. Western New Mexico University (wnmu.edu), for instance, offers about 150 online classes that it says "can accommodate the busy schedules of adult learners who are isolated by geography or constrained by time restrictions. Driving time, transportation expenses and childcare costs are eliminated." On its website, Eastern New Mexico University (enmu.edu) boasts that its online degree programs are affordable, personal and flexible. The school has a range of bachelor's degree programs that include nursing and occupational education. Additionally, Eastern New Mexico University offers master's degrees through more than a dozen programs in areas including business administration and elementary education for students seeking online degrees in New Mexico.

New Mexico State University (nmsu.edu) is another leader in online degrees in New Mexico. The school has an entire college devoted to alternative learning. The school's College of Extended Learning includes more than 700 courses from over 40 programs available through its weekend classes and distance education program. New Mexico State University's online degree programs include bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees, as well as certificate and license programs in a wide range of areas.

Sources:
The University of New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico University
GEAR UP
New Mexico Higher Education Department
New Mexico State University
Sloan Consortium
U.S. Census Bureau
Western New Mexico University

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