AdultEduSILVER CITY, NM - Adult Education Services is not a well-known part of the educational offerings at WNMU, but Adult Education Services Director Colton Bjerke hopes to change that.

Bjerke, who joined the university in 2022, is working to increase public awareness of the services offered, as well as to expand services in areas of southwest New Mexico that are underserved.

Bjerke explained that his office provides three different programs. “The most well-known one is the high school equivalency, which is preparing students to succeed on the GED or HiSET,” he said,

“The second program for us is the Adult Basic Education program, which helps students develop basic literacy skills and basic numeracy skills, so they can then be successful in the more challenging classes [of the high school equivalency courses].” In both of these programs together, Adult Education Services has 72 students enrolled.

The third program is English as a Second Language (ESL), which WNMU offers at both its Silver City and Deming locations. There are currently 21 students in the ESL program, with growing demand. This term, the Silver City section of ESL is at capacity and the Deming section is about 75%.

“One of the biggest benefits of studying ESL,” said Bjerke, “is that, if the potential student is a parent, and their child is to going to school in the public school system, knowing more English will help them to better support their children.”

Bjerke said that his office has made the process of enrolling in Adult Education as straightforward as possible. After filling out the online application, he said, students typically sit down one-on-one with a program coordinator to have an orientation and goal-setting session. “After they have completed that, we have them do a pre-assessment, which measures their ability in reading, language and math. We use those scores to assess which level in which to place them,” said Bjerke, adding, “The ESL program uses a similar process, but we use a different test to assess their English language proficiency.

Bjerke noted that while adult education services are important across the country, in New Mexico, there is a great need for programs like the one he directs. “If you look at New Mexico overall as a state, you find that our high school graduation rates are some of the lowest in the country. We also have a greater likelihood than many other states to have adults who have completed high school in another country, which is not always recognized in the U.S.”

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