College is working to track degree programs

Joshua Kellogg
San Juan College High School Principal Don Lorett, left, talks with San Juan College Dean of Learning Barbara Ake, center, Friday on the SJC campus in Farmington. Ake says the creation of so-called 'meta' majors" at the college will help students find a more defined pathway to graduation.

FARMINGTON – San Juan College is one of six colleges and universities piloting a program from the University of New Mexico to develop a website for students to track their required courses and see how credits transfer statewide.

The website is one of several initiatives in the state designed to help provide a clear path for students to graduate on time.

Greg Heileman, UNM's associate provost for curriculum, said he has been working for about four years with researchers at UNM on a project called “Degree Plans: Roadmaps for Higher Education in New Mexico.”

The project includes a statewide degree pathway dashboard where colleges will upload their degree programs to a website. The goal of the website is to create a service through which students and college officials can see which courses have been taken, which courses are needed to finish a degree and how credits would transfer to another institution.

“This is what we think will make the state better — the ability of our students to track the progress towards their degrees,” Heileman said. “The overall goal is really to improve higher education in the state of New Mexico.”

Heileman said the website also will help students determine what courses from an associate degree at one college would transfer toward a bachelor’s degree at the same college or transfer to another college.

The website is currently active with information on UNM’s degree plans at

“If we do this properly and everyone gets their curriculum in there, we can all figure out how to get a degree that involves credits from all of our institutions,” Heileman said.

San Juan College, New Mexico State University, Eastern New Mexico University, Northern New Mexico College, Santa Fe Community College and Central New Mexico Community College are participating in the project this year. Heileman is working toward gathering data from all 32 higher education institutions in the state on the website.

Ron Jernigan, senior director of institutional research at San Juan College, said the college will add its degree plan data soon when the software for the website is finalized.

“(The website) greatly benefits the students,” Jernigan said. “If we can reduce the number of courses that the student takes, it saves them money, it saves them a lot of time and gets them directly into a program they are interested in,”

Several initiatives from the New Mexico Higher Education Department tie into the degree website.

In an email, Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron said there are three components of Gov. Susana Martinez’s plan for a stronger and more cohesive higher education system: a seamless credit-transfer system, a reformed general education core curriculum and meta-majors.

“The degree mapping research that is being conducted at UNM for the benefit of all of our colleges and universities is essential to accomplishing these goals,” Damron stated in the email.

Heileman said work to re-evaluate core courses including math and science will help ensure the courses can transfer between colleges easier.

Barbara Ake, vice president of learning for San Juan College, said a meta-major helps students find a more defined pathway to graduation by taking sets of courses that apply to multiple degrees.

Ake said the meta-major for the School of Energy assigns students to courses that introduce them to various areas of oil and gas production. When students decide on a degree, the courses in the meta-major will apply to the degree they choose within the School of Energy.

San Juan College is developing meta-majors for the School of Health Sciences, School of Trades and Technology, and School of Humanities.

Heileman said the website will identify how meta-majors will work when a student transfers from one college to another. It will take about three years for the software to be developed to conduct work on the state’s curriculum to identify where credits do not transfer between colleges and universities.

“These reforms will help our students graduate on time and with the skills they need to enter New Mexico’s growing and diversifying economy,” Damron said in an email.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.