The state of New Mexico was admitted to the Union in 1912, becoming the 47th star on America’s flag. Don’t let the name fool you though. The territory was dubbed by Spanish explorers in 1563 for its notable Mexica (or Aztec) influence, some 260 years before Mexico took its name for the same reason. Thus, New Mexico is in a sense considerably older than Mexico.
Fittingly, its system of higher education is also considerably older than the state itself. Its first postsecondary institution, the school now known as New Mexico State University, was founded in 1888 in Las Cruces. Today, the school spreads out across five campuses, with more than 18,000 students rooting for Pistol Pete and his Aggies.
Cross-state rival, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque was founded just a year later and is the state’s largest four-year school with more than 35,000 enrolled. Just a mile from the city’s downtown areas, UNM is home to an active 600-acre campuses. Indeed, beyond its 94 bachelor’s programs, 71 master’s degrees, and 37 doctoral programs, the public university sanctions more than 400 student groups. The school’s nursing, pharmacy, and medicine programs are also nationally ranked.
As compared to the 28 public institutions within, New Mexico is home to only three non-profit private schools. However, among them is the highly-touted St. John’s College Santa Fe. The far younger sibling to its Annapolis, Maryland-based namesake, St. John’s Santa Fe was established in 1964 deep in the heart of New Mexico’s vibrant and multicultural capital city. In spite of its bustling metropolitan location, the campus itself remains extremely intimate, boasting an average class size of just 14 students.
New Mexico is at once host to some of the nation’s most dynamic schools and is among the most affordable states in which to attend college. In addition to a $5,483 average in-state tuition in 2012-2013—considerably lower than the national average of $8070—New Mexico’s students hold the lowest average rate of student debt at roughly $18,600 total. Moreover, with some of the highest rates of Native American and Hispanic residents as a percentage of total population, New Mexico and its colleges are among the most culturally diverse in the U.S.