Increased funding will support more teachers this year
The New Mexico Higher Education Department encourages teachers with outstanding student loans to apply for debt forgiveness through the state’s Teacher Loan Repayment Program, which is now accepting applications until August 1.
New Mexico licensed teachers working in high-need fields and schools statewide may be eligible for up to $6,000 per year for two years toward principal debt and interest on federal student loans related to teacher education.
The program received a record number of applications last year resulting in more than 600 New Mexico teachers supported by the program. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham approved a $3 million increase for the program this year to ensure that all eligible teachers are funded.
“New Mexico teachers should have the freedom to focus on making a difference, not making student loan payments,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez said. “These hardworking professionals give so much of themselves to their students and communities, and we value their decision to enter and remain in the classroom. Gov. Lujan Grisham is continuing her promise of providing teachers the support and respect they deserve.”
“The Teacher Loan Repayment Program is a great move for helping highly trained teachers from all backgrounds enter and stay where they want to be – in the classroom,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “Between increased teacher salaries and teacher support programs like this one, this administration is working to ensure that educators are compensated for the essential contributions they make every day in our state.”
Gov. Lujan Grisham also supported and increased funding for the Teacher Preparation Affordability and Grow Your Own Teachers Scholarships in 2019 to support students entering teacher preparation programs, and these students can also benefit from the New Mexico Opportunity and Lottery Scholarships to pursue undergraduate degrees tuition-free. However, many teachers who earned their degree before these programs were available or went on to earn advanced degrees paid for them using federal student loans. The average amount of debt held by teachers participating in the program this year is over $48,000.
“The Teacher Loan Repayment Program has given me the opportunity to further my education without having to worry about finances,” said Sandra De La Cruz, program recipient and special education teacher at Yarbro Elementary School in Lovington. “This has definitely alleviated a lot of stress so that I can put more of my efforts into teaching.”
De La Cruz is pursuing a master’s degree in special education at Eastern New Mexico University. Entering her sixth year in the classroom, she was carrying $30,000 in student debt.
“New Mexico's Teacher Loan Repayment Program is a critical component in attracting and keeping educators in our public schools. By lessening financial barriers facing incumbent and prospective educators, we are signaling our shared goal to champion and support educators at all stages of their career. Our union is a willing partner with Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez and Gov. Lujan Grisham to champion any and all programs which help to keep our schools fully staffed with high-quality educators,” said American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Whitney Holland.
"Thanks to the Teacher Loan Repayment program, hundreds of New Mexico teachers will experience relief from the financial burden of student loans this year," National Education Association New Mexico President Mary Parr-Sanchez said. "NEA New Mexico deeply appreciates the commitment of Gov. Lujan Grisham, the New Mexico Higher Education Department, and policymakers to ensuring that educators can focus on their most important job - teaching students."
The award can be renewed for additional two-year cycles if the recipient continues to fulfill the teaching commitment. Preference is also given to teachers who graduated from a New Mexico college or university and teachers from underrepresented backgrounds. Teachers benefitting from the Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness program can simultaneously benefit from New Mexico’s program.
Eligible teachers must be U.S. citizens, New Mexico residents for 12 or more consecutive months, hold a New Mexico teaching license, and have taught at least three years in New Mexico. Priority is given to teachers in a high-need position, including those with endorsements and actively teaching in the following areas:
- Bilingual education
- Early childhood education
- Special education
- Science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM)
- Career technical education (CTE)
Teaching in a low-performing school serving economically disadvantaged populations (40% or more of students receiving free and reduced lunch)
Program applications are due by 5 p.m. on Monday, August 1 and can be completed electronically via the New Mexico Higher Education Department’s website at hed.state.nm.us. Teachers who are interested can also contact the agency via email at Fin.Aid@state.nm.us or through a toll-free helpline at 1-800-279-9777.