State Highlights

WICHE and New Mexico

Partnering for Over Six Decades
Year joined: 


► Thousands of students from New Mexico have attended undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in other Western states through WICHE’s Student Exchange Program, saving millions of dollars, thanks to reduced tuition rates. In just one of the programs, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, New Mexico students and their families have saved $78.1 million since 1988, when the program was founded. 

► New Mexico has received funding to be part of numerous WICHE policy initiatives, including those focused on financing and financial aid, workforce policy, and other areas.

► New Mexico has participated in WICHE initiatives related to distance education, workforce development, and behavioral health.

Return on Investment.

► In 2015-16 New Mexico, its institutions, and its students saved or brought in some $7.6 million through WICHE and spent $141,000 for membership in the commission, yielding a 54-fold return on investment.

► In the last 5 years, New Mexico savings from WUE alone have totaled more than $20.7 million, yielding a 31-fold return on the state’s investment in WICHE.

Student Savings
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Programs and Participation.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA is a voluntary, nationwide initiative of states that will make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and make it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort initially was funded by $3.2 million in grants from Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is now supported by fees paid by institutions. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts – the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) – and overseen by The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints. New Mexico has applied to become a member of SARA.

New Mexico is active in all three WICHE Student Exchange Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the Professional Student Exchange Program, and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2015-16 New Mexico’s students and families saved some $7.5 million. New Mexico saved money, too, through not having to establish and maintain costly programs in a number of areas, including some in healthcare.

Western Undergraduate Exchange. New Mexico students have enrolled in undergraduate programs beyond New Mexico’s borders through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) since 1988. In 2015-16, 546 students from New Mexico are enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving more than $3.9 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $7,252. In the last 10 years, students have saved $78.1 million

New Mexico benefits from WUE in another way: by receiving students from out of state. New Mexico’s institutions can choose how many out-of-state slots to offer and in which areas, allowing them to make the best use of their resources by accepting students in underenrolled programs. There’s a workforce benefit for the state, too, as students often stay in New Mexico after graduating. In 2015-16 New Mexico received 1,014 students through WUE.

Professional Student Exchange Program. New Mexico has sent some 1,535 students to professional programs through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP), with students studying in two critical fields: dentistry and veterinary medicine. Historically, some 88 percent of PSEP students return to New Mexico to pursue their professional careers. In addition, in 2015-16 the state received 3 students and $49,100 in support fees from other Western states.

Western Regional Graduate Program. New Mexico’s postgraduates also participate in graduate programs through the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which offers access to 380 high-quality, distinctive programs (“distinctive” meaning they’re offered at only four or fewer institutions in the WICHE region) at 60 institutions in all WICHE states. WRGP programs run the gamut, but emerging social, environmental, and resource-management fields are particular strengths, as are innovative interdisciplinary programs. In 2015-16 New Mexico sent 103 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving 34.

The Interstate Passport is an outcomes-based framework for block transfer of lower division general education. Developed by faculty, registrars, institutional researchers, and academic advisors at two- and four-year institutions in seven states (California, Hawaii, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming), the framework addresses barriers to degree completion posed by uneven transfer policies and practices across states. Institutions in four other WICHE states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico) and additional states outside the region are involved in its Phase III expansion and scaling efforts to build a nationwide infrastructure supporting friction-free transfer for Passport students. By earning a Passport, students who transfer to another Passport institution will have their learning recognized regardless of differences in course titles and credits, and will not be required to repeat courses to meet general education requirements.

WICHE’s Added Value.

New Mexico gains added value from WICHE’s programs in policy, workforce development, technology, mental health, and other areas.

Policy & Workforce Development.

New Mexico has participated in projects supporting better-informed decision making at the state level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and others. In addition, WICHE policy experts often visit the state to present or consult on a number of vital issues, including the state’s workforce needs and balancing the financial aid portfolio between grants, loans, and scholarships, as well as between merit- and need-based aid. WICHE President David Longanecker has worked with the New Mexico Higher Education Department and Legislature to develop a performance-based funding structure, including facilitating a retreat in Boulder on funding and accountability processes with business, education, and government stakeholders.

Most recently, WICHE staff has been integrally involved in the New Mexico Department of Higher Education’s efforts to design and adopt a new funding model for the state. WICHE has considerable expertise and experience working with states on such models, which seek to fund higher education institutions for the outcomes they produce (including degree and certificate completions and student academic progress). WICHE’s facilitation of a retreat for senior leaders within the department and among New Mexico’s public institutions and its ongoing involvement in the policy development process has helped the state sharpen its focus on how the policy might best meet its needs while taking into account the perspectives of key stakeholders.

The implementation of the Common Core Standards (CCSS) or other similar academic standards is well underway in most states, and the corresponding assessment systems went live in this academic year. As implementation continues, there are a variety of challenges that K-12 and higher education leaders will face in the coming years related to student movement across state lines. To begin the conversation about these challenges, WICHE, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, convened higher education and K-12 leaders from the Western region and additional bordering states in October 2014. New Mexico was one of 17 states along with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to participate. 

The state also participated in a Gates-funded meeting that brought together the stewards of the data systems in 14 of the WICHE states for discussions around linking data internally and with other states. 

The Adult College Completion (ACC) Network, funded by Lumina Foundation, is a 750-member learning network that unites organizations and agencies working to increase college completion by adults with prior college credits but no degree. Activities include an annual workshop, a webinar series, publications, a listserv, and other resources. The ACC Network and WICHE have become national leaders in the area of adult learners and continue to be an important resource to those who strive to better serve non-traditional students.

The State Higher Education Policy Database (SHEPD) is WICHE’s online searchable database. It provides state and national policymakers, education leaders, practitioners, and education consumers with an inventory of state-level policies and resources in key policy issue areas related to access and success in higher education. It contains a blog and an electronic SHEPD alert distribution list to keep subscribers current on important updates. A related resource is the Policy Publications Clearinghouse, a depository of publications, reports, and briefs related to higher education..

Additionally, New Mexico State University, the University of New Mexico, and Western New Mexico University are members of the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum), whose members address regional higher education issues and engage in resource sharing. The Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance), brings academic leaders of community colleges and technical schools and systems together with state governing and coordinating boards associated with two-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives. New Mexico State University Alamogordo and New Mexico Military Institute are members.


Several New Mexico colleges and universities are active participants in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is widely recognized as one of the most informative, reliable, and forward-thinking organizations regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education. Our growing membership includes more than 350 institutions, state and system-wide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. WCET member institutions actively serve more than 4 million college students taking all or part of their academic programs via technology. WCET members have access to trusted information on emerging trends, policies, and exemplars of successful learning technology innovation in practice. Key WCET activities include an annual meeting, leadership summits, national webcasts, and email list-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student success, faculty success, managing e-learning, emerging technologies and evolving policy issues.

Mental Health.

A nucleus for researching mental health policy and a provider of technical assistance in such areas as service innovation, system reform, workforce development, program evaluation, and other areas, WICHE’s Mental Health Program is another well-used resource available to New Mexico. The program is collaborating with Doña Ana County in southern New Mexico to provide technical assistance and training to support improved crisis intervention resources. These efforts include mental health first aid trainings, trauma-informed care trainings, and support for a behavioral health “promotoras” initiative.

Other Initiatives.

The Master Property Program (MPP), helps institutions reduce their insurance premiums and improve their coverage. Created by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact in 1994 and expanded to the WICHE region in 2004, the MPP includes more than 160 campuses with total insured values of over $103 billion. WICHE is also partnering with MHEC to offer MHECare, a new health program providing vetted, competitively priced medical benefits for students. Underwritten by UnitedHealthcare StudentResources, MHECare offers a variety of plans. In a third collaboration with MHEC, WICHE extends the benefits of MHECtech to colleges and universities in the West enabling them to purchase from competitively bid purchasing agreements to reduce costs on a range of hardware and software products and services.

Former Commissioners.

Jose Garcia, cabinet secretary of higher education, New Mexico Higher Education Department; Hanna Skandera, Secretary of Education-Designate, Publication Education Department; Susanna Murphy, lecturer, Department of Educational Leadership and Organizational Learning; Viola Florez, dean, College of Education, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Dede Feldman, state senator, Albuquerque; Peter White, professor of English and American literature, University of New Mexico, and former cabinet secretary, New Mexico Higher Education Department; Reed Dasenbrock, vice chancellor for academic affairs, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, and former cabinet secretary, New Mexico Higher Education Department; Beverlee McClure, CEO, Association of Commerce & Industry, and former cabinet secretary, New Mexico Higher Education Department; Letitia Chambers, CEO, Heard Museum, and former executive director of the Commission on Higher Education; Everett Frost (WICHE chair, 2000), president emeritus and professor emeritus, Eastern New Mexico University, Portales; Pauline Gubbels, former state representative, Albuquerque; Bruce D. Hamlett, adjunct professor of public policy, William Jessup University, and former executive director of the Commission on Higher Education, Santa Fe; Karen Becklin, board member, ENMU-Ruidoso Collge; Dewayne Matthews, vice president of policy and strategy, Lumina Foundation, and former executive director, New Mexico Commission on Higher Education; and Richard Peck, novelist and former president of the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque.