(TNS) — The New Mexico Higher Education Department (HED) announced its budget priorities for the 2023 fiscal year on Sept. 2, which aims to improve education in the state through free college, student loan assistance for teachers and investments in adult education.
“Our agency and Gov. Lujan Grisham are committed to ensuring that every higher education dollar is used to sustain and expand programs that provide all New Mexicans with the opportunity to earn an education for free and get the training necessary to support a healthy workforce and the state’s economy,” said the HED’s Acting Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez in the announcement. “We are dedicated to investing in free college in addition to supporting New Mexico’s teachers and programs that provide pathways to college and careers for adult learners, both of which are crucial to uplifting our citizens and state.”
Here is what the HED is proposing:
- $48 million for the Opportunity Scholarship, which could provide free college to 25,000 to 35,000 students.
- $11.5 million for adult education and literacy programs.
- $5.2 million for agency operations and general costs.
- $3 million for the state’s Teacher Loan Repayment Program (TLRP).
The HED stated it will also request funds to continue the development and implementation of the state’s longitudinal data system, which aims to close achievement gaps in education and the workforce.
The Opportunity Scholarship received $18 million in state funds for the 2022 fiscal year, the announcement stated.
The scholarship program paid for students pursuing certificate, associate or bachelor’s degrees in New Mexico, returning Lottery Scholarship students and working students.
The state’s adult education and literacy programs includes high school equivalency and transition programs that encourage graduates to seek higher education, career training and join the workforce.
In 2019, 79 percent of adult education students gained employment and 15 percent continued into higher education programs upon the completion of their adult education program, the announcement stated.
The TLRP pays New Mexico teachers working in high-need positions up to $6,000 per year toward their student debt.
High need positions include bilingual education, early childhood education, special education, teaching science, technology, engineering, mathematics or career technical education courses, or teaching in schools with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students.
“The program has been a lifeline for veteran teachers who acquired debt prior to the availability of the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship and other state scholarships now available for aspiring educators,” the announcement stated.
Forty-five percent of teachers in the U.S. have taken out a student loan at some point, according to the National Education Association(NEA), the country’s largest labor union.
About three-fifths (59 percent) of teachers with unpaid loans reported that their debt had prevented them from building up savings, and four in 10 said that paying off their student loans impacted their mental, emotional and physical well-being, according to an HED special report.
The budget proposals will be submitted to the Department of Finance Administration and the Legislative Finance Committee, and will be finalized during the 56th Legislature, the announcement stated.
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