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Highlands University Offers Debt-Free Four-Year Education to Students from Partner High Schools 

Image of smiling students looking down at cameraOctober 14, 2021

A new partnership between Highlands University and nine regional high schools will provide current high school juniors and seniors with four-year funding to attend Highlands.  

Highlands is partnering with Santa Fe Public Schools, Denver Public Schools, and most of the schools in the Northeast Regional Education Cooperative, including Mora, Santa Rosa, Wagon Mound, West Las Vegas, and Las Vegas City school districts. Pecos and Santa Fe Indian School have not yet responded.  

Four-year funding will be offered to any students graduating from partner schools with a 3.0 GPA. Additionally, students awarded a full ride will need to maintain this GPA throughout their four years at Highlands.  

According to Highlands’ vice president for student and donor engagement, Theresa Law, the resources for this partnership come from bundling federal funding, state funding such as Lottery and Opportunity scholarships, work study, and institutional scholarships, among other sources.  

“We envision extending these partnerships for more than the current one-year agreements,” said Law. “We may tweak some of the elements of this structure, partly because some of the funding like the Opportunity Scholarship is a year-to-year proposition, so that may change on the state level.”  

Law said Highlands will also be tracking data to assess retention and graduation rates to assess the success of the partnerships.  

“This is really the first pilot cohort that we’re trying out,” said Law. “So, we want to leave room for changes.”  

Benito Pacheco, senior director of strategic enrollment management, said the agreement aligns with Highlands University’s mission to serve the local community and promote accessibility, responsiveness, and excellence. Pacheco said Highlands is supporting student success by offering wrap-around services such as success coaches, preferential orientation dates, and preferential living arrangements. 

“We wanted to take away some of the red tape so we can get students into a four-year institution early on, give them scholarships, and let them know that there’s opportunity for them,” said Pacheco. “How can we better serve our community than to partner with them and work directly with the schools to take some of the burden off of the students? That’s part of the thinking behind the development of this idea.” 

Students unfamiliar with Highlands and Las Vegas will have an opportunity to visit the campus, and according to Law, on-site visits will include exposure to the outdoor recreation program as well as university events that highlight campus life.  

Law hopes the agreement will increase enrollment at Highlands, which has been declining due to the pandemic, the strong job market, and overall national and state-level demographic trends.  

“I think this is a really great opportunity for students, and with what you’re getting upfront, I would really encourage folks to take advantage of it,” said Law. “We hope that it means that we retain these students and have better graduation rates, because of the support that they’re getting.”  

Interested high school juniors and seniors from participating schools must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and other application materials by December 31, 2021. For more information, contact admisssions@nmhu.edu.