SANTA FE, NM – The New Mexico Higher Education Department has identified budget priorities for the agency and the state’s public colleges, universities and special schools for the 2022 fiscal year.
“Investment in higher education is key to New Mexico’s economic recovery and meeting emerging workforce needs in our state,” Acting Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said. “A top priority for the New Mexico Higher Education Department is sustaining financial aid programs at current levels to ensure that students have access to higher education opportunities to reskill and enter the workforce in a post-COVID environment.”
The majority of jobs, particularly in high-growth sectors now demand education beyond high school, and according to 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly median salary for individuals with a bachelor’s degree was $1,248, compared to $746 for high school graduates. According to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, career technical jobs in wind and solar energies, and careers in the medical field, math, and computer science are growing the fastest.
The NMHED budget includes 26 state-funded financial aid programs available to New Mexico Students, including the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship, Student Incentive Grants, teacher education scholarships, and loan-for-service and repayment programs for graduates in specific high-demand pubic service jobs. The Opportunity Scholarship helps to ensure that New Mexico students can once again afford to seek higher education, filling the gap left by the Lottery Scholarship and other state aid to cover 100% of tuition and fees.
The agency also oversees operational budgets for all public and tribal universities, colleges, and special schools. Institutional budget recommendations are calculated in part by a formula that considers metrics including student degree completion, enrollment, and credit hours completed. Over 30,000 New Mexicans received a degree or certificate from the state’s public colleges and universities in the past year.
Adult education and literacy programs supporting High School Equivalency students statewide also receive funding through the NMHED budget. In 2019, 79% of students gained employment and 15% of students continued into higher education programs upon the completion of their adult education program.
Additionally, the agency evaluates and recommends capital outlay projects for facility repairs and improvements at public higher education institutions, and recommends funding for selected research and public service projects submitted by institutions statewide. Recently, New Mexico voters approved funding for the upcoming year’s projects, and those projects will go before the Legislature for approval.
NMHED is requesting $803.2 million for the state’s public higher education institutions and special schools, $24.5 million for state financial aid programs, $7 million for adult education, and $3.9 million for agency operations and general costs. State agencies including NMHED have reduced their budget recommendations by five percent from the prior year as a result of the COVID pandemic. The budget recommendation will be presented by Acting Cabinet Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez in partnership with representatives from higher education institution leadership to the Legislative Finance Committee on December 8, and finalized during the 2021 legislative session.
Despite the scope of programs overseen by the agency, NMHED is one of the smallest state agencies, with nine public-facing divisions and 51 full-time staff.