One example of a nontraditional student at Eastern New Mexico University, is a former or returning student. This means that the student had been previously working towards a degree at Eastern, but has been away for one or more semesters. These students have the option to return to Eastern months or even years later to finish earning their degree, or to start fresh with a different degree.
Julia Simmons, a former Eastern student, is looking into returning this fall to obtain her Bachelor’s degree. Simmons originally started at Eastern in the fall of 2015, pursuing a degree in general studies. She researched her college options after graduating from Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, NH. She looked into colleges in and around Boston, but discovered her cheapest option was across the country at Eastern New Mexico University. Another reason Simmons decided on Eastern was how close it was to her mother, who lives in Clovis.
Some of the highlights during her time at Eastern included reconnecting with old friends, working under Professor Gregory Senn in the Art Department as part of her work study, and having the opportunity to branch out into different subjects. Simmons said, “They offered me a dairy science class that I didn’t think I would like, but then I fell in love with it.”
She shared that her experience at Eastern could have been improved if she had meshed better with some of her professors, if there had been more to do on campus, as well as more student work opportunities on campus. Simmons decided to leave Eastern after finishing her spring 2017 semester because she could not complete her degree in technical writing there. She moved to Lubbock, Texas that summer with a plan to pursue her technical writing degree at Texas Tech University. Due to personal reasons, Simmons ended up not attending school at Texas Tech. She did, however, remain in Lubbock for the next two years, working full time to support herself.
As opposed to Portales, Lubbock was more like what Simmons was used to back in Boston. There were more options for things to do, and it would be easier for her to find a new job if she decided to quit her current one. Simmons loved that Lubbock had a nightlife, but the best part was the presence of her favorite coffee shop. She said, “I could get Dunkin’ every day.”
The desire to finish school surfaced in the fall of 2018, and Simmons decided to move back to Clovis last October. On top of missing her friends and family, Simmons once again came to the realization that monetarily speaking, Eastern was still her best option. She doesn’t feel too worried about the application process because she never attended a different university, but she is concerned that she may lose some of her credits after being absent from Eastern for so long. Even though she knows she can’t get the degree she wants, she can still get something to help get her started. Simmons plans on pursuing a new degree, but at this time she is undecided on what that degree will be. Her main goal is to be able to make the transition from having a job to having a career.
When asked if she has any regrets about taking the time off, Simmons said, “I feel like I didn’t waste any years. I had a good life for two years, but looking and realizing that my class is about to graduate and I’m still four semesters behind it just makes me wish I had finished. But I’m on the right track now.”
Another former student, Leonel Alarcon, attended Eastern after receiving his GED in 2015 from New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs. He chose Eastern because it was the closest school that had accepted him. During his time at Eastern, Alarcon majored in Biology with an emphasis in Animal Science. When asked about the highlights of his experience, Alarcon mentioned being able to interact with people from different places and the library. In reference to the library being a personal highligt, he said, “Being able to read all the books I could, I love reading.”
Alarcon felt that his experience at Eastern could have been improved if he’d had more time to focus on his classes rather than being preoccupied with his job at the dairy. His schedule of working over nights and morning classes made it difficult to keep up with his schooling. He eventually ran out of funds and was unable to acquire more financial aid because his income from the dairy made him ineligible to receive help with schooling. Since leaving Eastern, Alarcon has devoted all of his time to working to maintain a livelihood.
Although he doesn’t have any immediate plans to return to Eastern, Alarcon still hopes he can go back one day. His biggest concern is finding a way to pay for school if he’s still ineligible for financial aid because of his income. If he does find a way to return, Alarcon plans on pursuing a new degree in Environmental Sciences. He admits that he regrets his decision to leave Eastern and said, “I regret leaving 100 percent. I feel like I missed out on career opportunities and didn’t get to experience my degree past the education phase.”
As long as they successfully complete the application process, former or returning students are given the same treatment as any other traditional student that applies to the university. As a former or returning student, the application to Eastern is still free. Any returning student is required to submit their application, FAFSA, official transcripts from any colleges attended after leaving Eastern, and a completed online major declaration form. All of these documents have to be sent to the Office of Enrollment Services in order to be considered for readmission. Once a student has been approved for readmission, they are then required to go to the Advising Center to create their class schedule. It’s never too late to go back and get that degree. Eastern offers the chance for students to return in their own time. It doesn’t matter if it’s been six months or six years. Any student has the time and the opportunity to finish their education.