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In the following ranking, we examine the 10 best affordable colleges in New Mexico for bachelor’s degrees. Although New Mexico might not benefit from a long history in the same way that many of its eastern neighbors do, particularly when it comes to centuries-old, prestigious universities, it is still a solid choice for students seeking an affordable four-year degree. While prospective students might find that their choices for private or public four-year institutions of higher education are limited, there are several high-value universities and colleges scattered throughout the state. From private liberal arts colleges such as the Southwest University of Visual Arts to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, known for offering rigorous STEM-focused academic options, the state is thorough and diligent in the institutions of higher education in offers. To establish a list of the top 10 affordable colleges in New Mexico, we focused on three key features that students look for when selecting a school: cost, class size, and student success.
To capture the balance between quality and affordability and identify the top colleges in universities in New Mexico, we focused our ranking and methodology around three main areas: tuition rates, student-to-faculty ratios, and graduation rates. However, before we could award points, we first needed to establish our initial list of schools. Therefore, we searched for colleges in New Mexico offering bachelor’s degrees using the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator tool.
Average Cost of Attendance
As you narrow down affordable colleges in New Mexico, you will likely be tempted to choose the cheapest school on the list just to avoid breaking the bank. Although we understand the need to save money, it is important to understand that the school you select should also offer a program in which you are interested. Therefore, research tuition rates and the average cost of attendance, but also think of tuition as one piece of the larger educational pie. For this article, we ranked tuition for an in-state student for one year of study, according to NCES. We also provided out-of-state tuition rates for reference only and did not use these figures as a basis for awarding points.
Under $7,500: 3 points
$7,500 to $15,000: 2 points
$15,001 and above: 1 point
We measured student-to-faculty ratios to gain a better understanding of each school’s average class size as well as its learning environment. When selecting a college or university, think about your own learning style and the setting in which you fare best. In other words, are you looking for a school with small classes and low student-to-faculty ratios that will offer plenty of opportunities for mentorship and one-on-one relationships? Or do you prefer to blend into the background of schools with large classes and high student-to-faculty ratios to earn your degree without too many interactions with peers and professors? Although every student is different and no one type of learning environment will work for every student, for this ranking, we awarded the most points to schools with the lowest student-to-faculty ratios from NCES.
10:1 or less: 3 points
11:1 to 15:1: 2 points
Greater than 15:1: 1 point
The third and final factor we considered in the following ranking of affordable colleges in New Mexico was each school’s graduation rate, as reported from NCES. Although most students research the acceptance rates of schools in which they are interested, it is just as important to look at graduation rates, or the number of students that completed their program requirements and earned their degree. Although such is not always the case, high graduation rates typically indicate that a school is doing something right to keep students happy and enrolled, whereas low graduation rates could be a red flag that the school is lacking in one or more areas, causing students to leave and finish their degree elsewhere. Therefore, for this ranking, we awarded the most points to universities and colleges in New Mexico that reported high graduation rates.
More than 50 percent: 3 points
Between 30 percent and 50 percent: 2 points
Less than 30 percent: 1 point
Ranking Top 10 Best Affordable Colleges in New Mexico
10. University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Located on an 800-acre campus in Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico is one of the top-value universities in New Mexico and the flagship institution of the state. Established in 1889, the school also operates branch campuses in Valencia, Taos, Los Alamos, Gallup, and Rio Rancho. UNM confers rigorous academic programs through 12 schools and colleges, including more than 215 affordable degrees and certificates. Students can choose from 94 bachelor’s, 71 master’s, and 37 doctoral degrees, and notable areas of study include sign language interpretation, radiologic sciences, and Chicana and Chicano studies. This low-cost school is recognized in the top 13 institutions in the country for its nuclear engineering program, issuing more than 300 engineering patents since 1999. UNM is also ranked as the seventh-best school in the U.S. for its M.S. in Nursing with a concentration in nurse-midwifery. Offering a distinctive campus environment complete with a theme reminiscent of Pueblo Revival architecture, the campus buildings echo nearby Pueblo Indian villages. Also, the popular duck pond and nationally recognized campus arboretum offer a breathtaking botanical experience in the midst of one of the state’s greatest open public spaces.
In-State Tuition: $7,633
Out-of-State Tuition: $22,586
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Graduation Rate: 50 percent
9. New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Founded in 1888 as the Las Cruces College and later known as the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, New Mexico State University, located in Las Cruces, is the state’s land-grant institution and a comprehensive research university dedicated to service, research, and teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels. NMSU is also a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a NASA Space Grant College, and home to New Mexico’s first Honors College. This inexpensive New Mexico university serves students at five campuses, cooperative extension offices in all 33 counties, a satellite learning center in Albuquerque, 12 science and research centers, and through distance education. NMSU offers more than 180 affordable degree programs, and the school can accommodate most interests through programs that include turfgrass science and management, genetics and biotechnology, digital filmmaking, conservation ecology, agricultural biology, family and child science, animal science, and aerospace engineering. The school’s core research strengths include areas in space science and aerospace, computer and electrical engineering, computer science, the agricultural and life sciences, and sustainability, including water, environment, and energy.
In-State Tuition: $6,686
Out-of-State Tuition: $21,770
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Graduation Rate: 47 percent
8. Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico University is a public, low-cost college in New Mexico, located in Portales. Established in 1927, ENMU is the largest regional comprehensive university in the state and a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution. With more than 60 top-value programs and majors, ENMU provides courses of study for nearly every interest. Faculty members engage students in learning through innovative uses of hands-on experiences and technology in the classroom. According to ENMU, the school’s most popular, affordable undergraduate degrees include business administration, biology, communicative disorders, and the applied arts and sciences. Physical education, communicative disorders, business administration, and education are among the top graduate degrees. ENMU also offers more than 30 inexpensive online programs that provide flexibility for non-traditional, working, and adult students. Outside of the classroom, students can choose from more than 50 registered on-campus organizations, including department and professional groups, Greek life, mutual interest groups, religious organizations, and academic clubs. For more than 20 years, ENMU has ranked as one of the best four-year universities in New Mexico for student satisfaction. Of all schools in the state, ENMU consistently places first or second in overall student satisfaction.
In-State Tuition: $6,326
Out-of-State Tuition: $8,247
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Graduation Rate: 35 percent
7. New Mexico Highlands University
Las Vegas, New Mexico
Established in 1893 as New Mexico Normal School, New Mexico Highlands University is a public university located in historic Las Vegas, New Mexico with locations in Albuquerque, Farmington, Rio Racho, and Santa Fe. The school enrolls around 2,100 undergraduate and nearly 1,300 graduate students from 42 states, 35 countries, and 19 tribes. NMHU is one of the most inexpensive colleges in New Mexico offering best-value undergraduate and graduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences as well as comprehensive programs in social work, teacher education, and business. The school maintains cost-effective tuition, small classes, and open enrollment with the mission of serving students through personal attention. NMHU is nationally recognized for student and faculty achievement, research activities, and experiential learning opportunities in which students combine academic study with real-world experience. NMHU is nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and is just a short drive from several hiking areas, ski resorts, and several lakes. Students may join more than 50 chartered student clubs and organizations as well as seven honor societies.
In-State Tuition: $6,150
Out-of-State Tuition: $10,302
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Graduation Rate: 21 percent
6. Western New Mexico University
Silver City, New Mexico
Western New Mexico University, one of the most affordable universities in New Mexico, is located on an 83-acre campus in Silver City. Since 1893, WNMU has served residents of New Mexico and the state’s surrounding areas as a public, rural, regional, comprehensive coeducational university. Enrolling more than 3,500 students from 18 countries at its campuses and online, approximately 50 percent of undergraduates are Hispanic, thus resulting in the Hispanic-Serving Institution designation. WNMU confers more than 70 fields of study ranging from affordable accounting degree to low-cost zoology programs. Outside of the classroom, students can enjoy all Silver City has to offer, including breathtaking views, sunny skies, and picturesque mountains as well as local restaurants, coffee corners, and cultural events and entertainment. Metropolitan hubs such as El Paso, Albuquerque, and Tucson are only a short drive away. The school is known for historic traditions such as the Great Race and Painting of the W, and WNMU’s University Museum is home to the world’s largest permanent collection of Mimbres pottery. The WNMU Mustangs compete in the Lone Star Conference, and students can participate in football, volleyball, softball, and men’s and women’s tennis, cross country, golf, and basketball teams.
In-State Tuition: $6,066
Out-of-State Tuition: $13,539
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Graduation Rate: 26 percent
5. Northern New Mexico College
Espanola, New Mexico
Established in 1909 as the Spanish American Normal School, Northern New Mexico College is a regional comprehensive institution and one of the most affordable colleges in New Mexico. Located in Espanola, Northern also operates a campus in El Rito and offers cheap certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s programs to around 1,100 students each year. Low-cost degree programs include early childhood and elementary education, nursing and health sciences, film and digital media arts, business administration and entrepreneurship, humanities and social sciences, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Northern is also known for its programs in career and technical fields such as radiation control, renewable energy, and electrical. With a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an average class size of 12 to 15 students, classes are kept small and personal, allowing students to receive one-on-one instruction from faculty. Outside of the classroom, Northern provides unique opportunities for professional, personal, and academic growth in all areas of study. Students of this low-cost college benefit from undergraduate research early in their college career through internships and other hands-on learning initiatives. Campus organizations revolve around academic, honor societies, religion, hobbies and interests, and academics.
In-State Tuition: $4,952
Out-of-State Tuition: $13,676
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Graduation Rate: 22 percent
4. Navajo Technical University
Crownpoint, New Mexico
Navajo Technical University is a public land-grant and tribally-controlled institution of higher learning and the largest tribal college in the nation. Established in 1979, NTU is committed to a high-quality, hands-on, student-oriented learning environment based on the Dine Philosophy of Education: Siihasin, Iina, Nahata, and Nitsahakees. With locations in Chinle, Teec Nos Pos, Crownpoint, and online, NTU provides a unique balance between tradition and culture and technology and science. This affordable university in New Mexico offers affordable academic, technical, and vocational degrees and certificates in fields such as the culinary arts, accounting, veterinary technology, construction technology, automotive technology, and digital manufacturing as well as information technology, engineering, bookkeeping, and nursing. NTU is also home to the Navajo Nation’s first master’s degree in Dine leadership, language, and culture. Students have many opportunities to gain hands-on experience and learn through internships, mentorships, and various projects. Students at this cheap university are also encouraged to participate in on- and off-campus activities outside of the classroom to fully develop professionally and personally.
In-State Tuition: $4,070
Out-of-State Tuition: $4,070
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Graduation Rate: 14 percent
3. Southwest University of Visual Arts
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The Southwest University of Visual Arts is a private, top-value New Mexico college. Founded in 1983, SUVA was initially known as The Art Center Design College and focuses on the fields of visual communications, design, and fine arts. SUVA enrolls 85 undergraduates at its Albuquerque campus and more than 180 undergraduates in Tucson. Students can choose from six top-value B.A. degrees in advertising and marketing, landscape architecture, interior design, illustration, graphic design, and animation. Two economical B.F.A. degrees are also available in photography and studio arts. SUVA also confers a M.F.A. with concentrations in painting and illustration, graphic design, motion arts, and photography for graduate students. Approximately 97 percent of full-time new undergraduates at SUVA Albuquerque receive some type of financial aid to help offset the cost of tuition and make SUVA one of the most affordable colleges in New Mexico.
In-State Tuition: $22,613
Out-of-State Tuition: $22,613
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 5:1
Graduation Rate: 89 percent
2. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Socorro, New Mexico
Established in 1889, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, formerly known as the New Mexico School of Mines, is one of the cheapest colleges in New Mexico. Located in Socorro. New Mexico Tech confers affordable undergraduate and graduate degrees, including several inexpensive B.S. programs in technical communication, management, mathematics, physics, psychology, engineering, the sciences, and technology. With more than 12 research divisions that work with other universities, government agencies, and private industry companies, NMT is often called “the research institution that happens to have a university.” Therefore, it is no surprise that nearly all NMT undergraduate students complete some form of campus research that provides hands-on experience solving real-world problems. Each department at NMT is responsible for managing state-of-the-art laboratories in which students work, and NMT offers two National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) Sites that host undergraduates during the summer months. NMT consistently ranks as the top four-year college in New Mexico and as the fifth-best school in terms of annual return on investment (ROI).
In-State Tuition: $7,770
Out-of-State Tuition: $22,268
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
Graduation Rate: 56 percent
1. Institute of American Indian Arts
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Institute of American Indian Arts is a tribal college located in Santa Fe, and the only institution of higher learning in the world dedicated to contemporary Native American art. IAIA is also the only national center of scholarship, training, and research for Native Americans dedicated solely to Alaska Native and American Indian culture and arts. This best affordable college in New Mexico enrolls around 500 students who represent 35 states and 96 federal tribes, and while the majority of staff, faculty, and students are Native American, IAIA enrolls students from other backgrounds, ethnicities, races, and cultures. Students may pursue several low-cost degree programs in unique areas such as studio arts, performing arts, museum studies, and indigenous studies as well as creative writing, cinematic arts, business, and art history. An M.F.A. in Creative Writing is also offered at the graduate level. The historic Santa Fe Federal Building, a landmark Pueblo Revival structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to the IAIA-operated Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, where students can enjoy a collection of more than 7,000 items.
In-State Tuition: $4,980
Out-of-State Tuition: $4,980
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 7:1
Graduation Rate: 11 percent
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Most In-Demand Careers in New Mexico for Graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Mexico reported an unemployment rate of 5.0 percent as of March 2019, significantly higher than the national average of 3.8 percent that same month. However, looking back to the beginning of 2019 and comparing January’s 5.1 percent unemployment rate to June’s 4.9 percent rate, we can see that the state’s economy is getting progressively better. Despite this, there are significant job opportunities throughout the state, particularly in the fields of healthcare, trade occupations, and technology.
According to the New Mexico Workforce Connection, the following are the top 10 best occupational opportunities in New Mexico as well as each position’s projected growth between 2016 and 2026. Each occupation listed below can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree and without the need for graduate school or further academic study:
- Solar Photovoltaic Installers: 112.6 percent
- Wind Turbine Service Technicians: 57.5 percent
- Personal Care Aides: 40.2 percent
- Information Security Analysts: 37.2 percent
- Home Health Aides: 36.5 percent
- Machine Feeders and Offbearers: 27.9 percent
- Physician Assistants: 27.4 percent
- Roustabouts, Oil and Gas: 25.7 percent
- Physical Therapist Aides: 25.1 percent
- Derrick Operators, Oil and Gas: 24.2 percent
The New Mexico Workforce Connection indicates that the greatest number of new jobs will be reserved for occupations such as personal care aides, food preparation and serving workers, and home health aides followed by registered nurses and both general and operations managers. Waiters and waitresses, janitors and cleaners, medical assistants, restaurant cooks, and customer service representatives will also see a boost in new positions.
In terms of the most job openings between 2016 and 2026, the occupations that top the list also include personal care aides and food preparation and serving workers, and cashiers, retail salespersons, and waiters and waitresses round out the top five. Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive, as well as customer service representatives, janitors and cleaners, general and operations managers, and home health aides will be in demand as well.
What are the Highest-Paying Jobs in New Mexico?
If you know the industry in which you would like to work, understanding the highest-paying jobs in that sector might help you to further narrow down your occupation. By the same token, occupational employment and wage estimates can also help students who are uncertain of their professional future, particularly if they are simply looking for a career in which they will earn the highest salaries. To help get you started thinking about salaries and occupations, we consulted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), who gathered data from all employers in every region, both nonmetropolitan and metropolitan, as well as each industry sector across New Mexico. According to the BLS, the annual mean wage was $45,400 as of May 2018. The top five highest-paying jobs include:
- Obstetricians and Gynecologists: $287,680
- Surgeons: $280,430
- Internists, General: $267,630
- Psychiatrists: $255,410
- Physicians and Surgeons, All Other: $229,100
Although these occupations pay very well, they often require higher education such as a master’s degree, doctoral degree, or some form of medical school and/or residencies. Therefore, we also wanted to look at jobs undergraduates can pursue immediately after earning a degree from an affordable college in New Mexico. Below are 10 six-figure occupations that require only a bachelor’s degree as their minimum education or a bachelor’s degree and additional in-the-field training, experience, licensure, and/or certification.
- Architectural and Engineering Managers: $163,260
- Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers: $163,030
- Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining Safety Engineers: $140,130
- Computer and Information Research Scientists: $136,370
- Materials Scientists: $136,130
- Personal Financial Advisors: $133,500
- Materials Engineers: $124,780
- Compensation and Benefits Managers: $119,050
- Electronics Engineers, Except Computer: $115,420
- Air Traffic Controllers: $114,890
What are the Best Schools in New Mexico for Bachelor’s Recipients?
Students are drawn to colleges and universities in the Land of Enchantment for a number of reasons, including its breathtaking natural beauty, its vibrant, bustling towns and cities, and its top-value colleges and universities that boast some of the highest returns on investment (ROIs) in the country. Below, we have compiled data to help students and their families identify the New Mexico universities and colleges that offer the best ROIs for their educational dollars. We have ranked these institutions in order from the highest 20-year net ROI to the lowest ROI for on-campus students who pursued a degree without financial aid and provided early- and mid-career earnings based on the average cost of a bachelor’s degree from each school, according to PayScale.
- 1. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
– 20-Year Net ROI: $692,000
– Early Career Pay: $62,500
– Mid-Career Pay: $121,500
- 2. New Mexico State University-Main Campus
– 20-Year Net ROI: $374,000
– Early Career Pay: $49,700
– Mid-Career Pay: $96,400
- 3. University of New Mexico-Main Campus
– 20-Year Net ROI: $291,000
– Early Career Pay: $47,100
– Mid-Career Pay: $93,800
- 4. Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus
– 20-Year Net ROI: $164,000
– Early Career Pay: $44,000
– Mid-Career Pay: $79,800
- 5. New Mexico Highlands University
– 20-Year Net ROI: $129,000
– Early Career Pay: $39,600
– Mid-Career Pay: $70,800
The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology is recognized among the best-value colleges in New Mexico not only for its $692,000 ROI as well as its early- and mid-career salaries. NMT specializes in STEM subjects offers a low student-to-faculty ratio that allows for close personal relationships between students and professors as well as opportunities for hands-on research and experiential learning. New Mexico State University is another solid option for students seeking a comfortable ROI. The second-largest and oldest university in the state, students can choose from more than 80 inexpensive bachelor’s degrees and more than 50 master’s programs in a variety of in-demand fields. Around 75 percent of alumni would recommend NMSU to others. Regardless of the industry in which you would like to work or the school you would like to attend, these best affordable colleges in New Mexico for bachelor’s degrees are sure to meet your professional goals and academic needs.
This concludes our ranking of the top 10 best affordable colleges in New Mexico for bachelor’s degrees in 2020.
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