The Northern New Mexico College Study Group has been informed that NNMC lost its HEP Grant after two disastrous years under the leadership of Vice President of Advancement Ricky Serna. This grant, worth approximately $500,000 per year was taken over by Serna in 2011 after he removed HEP Director Donald Martinez.
Serna disturbed the grant in two critical ways that led to its non-renewal after 40 years of serving students in our community: 1) Serna moved the HEP programs and instruction from the El Rito campus to Española without authorization; 2) Serna then combined the High School Equivalency Program with another at the Española campus—Adult Basic Education (ABE). The ABE program, funded by the state of New Mexico and federal government under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, has significantly different measures and expected outcomes. It is a wholly separate program from HEP, which is specifically for seasonal and migrant farm workers and awards stipends to students to move them toward a GED in a finite amount of time.[i] Serna combined the programs’ instruction and instructors, and allegedly “double-dipped” by reporting the total number of students served by the combined HEP and ABE classrooms to each program separately. In 2013, Serna was reprimanded for this move and was told he was required to separate the programs. But alas, the damage had been done.
Serna was well-aware of his misrepresentation to the granting agencies and this would most certainly not have been done under the leadership of HEP Director Donald Martinez. Director Martinez upheld the long history of HEP’s success and responsibility and in doing so committed the program to continuing to serve those in our community who sought to achieve their goal of attaining a GED. Many of our HEP students continued into NNMC's College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and achieved Certificate, Associate’s and Bachelor’s at NNMC. HEP and CAMP not only benefited students, it was a clear component of NNMC's recruitment and retention, both of which should be critical concern to our Administration as we have reported lost between 45 and 57% of our student population since 2011. The newsletters from our then robust HEP program under Director Martinez attest to the program's successes and continued potential: http://ged.nnmc.edu/sites/default/files/u236/HEPNEWSLETTER.pdf and http://ged.nnmc.edu/sites/default/files/u3/HEP%20summer%20newsletter.pdf
Because of Serna and the Administration’s willful mismanagement, for the first time in 40 years, NNMC will not be re-awarded its High School Equivalency Program (HEP) Grant.
How many in our north-central New Mexico community will lose the opportunity to earn a GED because of NNMC’s Administration? NNMC’s reports show that the HEP Program serves at least 100 students per year, with a goal of an 80% success rate.[ii] These working-class, largely Chicana/o and Native students, receive tuition, books, counseling, a weekly meal and travel stipend, and the cost of GED testing--all to reward and encourage their efforts at gaining a GED. NNMC’s HEP was once a shining beacon in the Española School District, where the most recent graduation rate was a discouraging and dismal 45%.[iii] Our district, which trails far behind our state’s already low average graduation rate of 72%, has long been served by NNMC's HEP. In fact, Northern New Mexico College had only one of two HEP programs in the state (along with UNM’s Main campus in Albuquerque).
After forty years of successful program renewals, under this Administration, our community has lost the HEP Grant. And in doing so, it has extinguished another avenue of hope and promise in our community. In 2011, President Nancy "Rusty" Barceló delivered a lofty “Executive Proclamation” to celebrate HEP’s 40th Anniversary (pictured above).[iv] Then Barceló and her Administration stripped the program of its Director Donald Martinez, who was gracious in his goodbye though it was clear he had no desire to leave the program he had carefully nurtured.[v]
Once NNMC proudly proclaimed, “As part of a region steeped in a tradition of agriculture, Northern New Mexico College is proud to offer migrant and seasonal farm workers support and resources to earn their General Education Diplomas.”[vi] But again NNMC’s Administration has turned its back on our community and gutted a critical resource. The hubris of Serna, Barceló and company again results in a loss of instruction, services, and Federal grant money that this Valley and north-central New Mexico so desperately need.
The non-renewal of NNMC’s HEP Grant leaves the closest High School Equivalency Program approximately 90 miles away, or an hour and a half drive—if, as a GED hopeful you happen to have the daily gas money.[vii] Again the malpractice of a handful of NNMC Administrators has crushing consequences for our community. In addition, the loss of the HEP Grant will mean that four committed, full-time instructors will lose their jobs as will a critical part-time instructor who has taught computer literacy at NNMC for almost 15 years.
[i] See HEP federal guidelines: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/hep/index.html
[ii] See the report to the NNMC Board of Regents for 2012, p. 5-6: http://site.nnmc.edu/sites/default/files/u3/BORDec072012.pdf and the HEP Annual Profile: http://results.ed.gov/sites/results.ed.gov/files/Northern_New_Mexico_College.pdf
[iv] See the HEP Newsletter: http://ged.nnmc.edu/sites/default/files/u3/SpandSumHEPNEWSLETTER.pdf
[v] See HEP Newsletter, “Farewell Hasta Luego,” p. 5 http://ged.nnmc.edu/sites/default/files/u3/SpandSumHEPNEWSLETTER.pdf
[vi] NNMC HEP webpage: http://ged.nnmc.edu/page/high-school-equivalency-program
[vii] For national locations of the HEP Grant Programs see: http://www.hepcamp.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=37#NM