High schoolers in New Mexico might soon have to apply to at least one college or prove they have other productive post-graduation plans before they can pick up their diplomas. Lawmakers are considering adopting the new requirement as a way to boost the state’s college enrollment.
“There’s a reason we call graduation commencement because it’s the beginning of their future,” said state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto. “Let’s take that seriously.”
The requirement is based on a similar measure in Chicago, which mandates graduates have an acceptance letter from a community college or university, unless they are joining the military or entering an apprenticeship program. Proof of post-graduation employment waives the requirement.
Lawmakers backing the New Mexico bill don’t want to force students to go to college if they don’t want to. But state Rep. Nate Gentry thinks making them go to the trouble of applying will encourage more of them to enroll. Between 2010 and 2016, enrollment at New Mexico colleges and universities dropped 14 percent. The state also has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country at 6.5 percent.
Educators are skeptical, with some complaining about the additional work required to help all graduates fill out college applications. Teachers unions are already asking for more money for overseeing such additional tasks. —L.J.