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Education Department Report Shows Value of Highlands Education

LAS VEGAS, NM – Median salaries for graduates of New Mexico Highlands University are higher than graduates of University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Education.

Highlands graduates earned a median income of $35,200 in the 10-year span after graduation, according to the Department of Education’s College Scorecard. UNM main campus graduates earned a median salary of $34,900, and New Mexico State main campus graduates earned a median of $32,800, according to the Scorecard.

The report, online at collegescorecard.ed.gov, also compares the average annual cost of attendance at each institution: $6,621 at New Mexico Highlands, $10,079 at the University of New Mexico, and $9,531 at New Mexico State.

“This report reflects the value of a New Mexico Highlands education,” said Sam Minner, the university’s president. “We believe in an accessible college education, and our graduates are entering the workforce less burdened with debt.”

New Mexico Highlands also shows higher median incomes for Highlands graduates and less cost of attendance compared with Eastern New Mexico University, Western New Mexico University and Northern New Mexico College according to the report.

Angelo Mitchell, a 2010 graduate from Highlands’ Media Arts Program said he feels his experience at Highlands was well worth the cost.

“It’s one of the better programs in the state,” said Mitchell, a graphic designer at the Santa Fe-based HK Advertising firm. “We had a lot of great internship possibilities, and everyone benefited from that.” Mitchell said he graduated with less than $30,000 of student loan debt and earns approximately $50,000 per year. In contrast, the average annual cost of attendance at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, a private institution, is $27,033 and the median income after graduating is $35,000, according to the Scorecard.

For Tiffany Neeley, who graduated from Highlands in 2011 with a degree in business management and a minor in music, the university’s low annual cost of attendance put her on the pathway of pursuing her dream: acting.

Neeley said she graduated with $5,000 of debt from Highlands and took a position as a manager with a major retailer, earning approximately $60,000 a year.

“That allowed me to pay off my debt pretty quickly,” Neeley said. Neeley left her management job and devoted her time to acting in short films and stage.

“People often ask if money were no object, what would you do?” Neeley asked. “The ability to pursue something so scary was made much easier without a lot of debt. It’s empowering and it gives you freedom.”