Higher education secretary wants to forgive more loans, increase scholarships
Enrollments are up at New Mexico’s higher education institutions, with an increase of more than 4% that’s second only to New Hampshire. And even though the higher education budget this year was more than $1 billion, the Higher Education Department Wednesday asked the Legislative Finance Committee for more.
Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez asked for a boost to loan repayment programs for educators and medical professionals. Just more than half of the almost 1,800 applicants got awards this year, totaling nearly $8 million. Rodriguez wants that increased to $10 million next year.
Rep. Nathan Small, D-Doña Ana, said loan repayment was one of the best ways to encourage students to go into needed professions, but he asked Rodriguez what happened to students once loans were forgiven.
Rodriguez said only about half of those in allied health professions, who offer services adjacent to doctors and nurses, like physical therapy and radiography, stay in New Mexico. But she said for doctors, nurses, and dentists the numbers are much higher. "For medical it is in the 80 percentile. For nursing it’s actually 93%,” she said.
More than 36,000 New Mexicans took advantage this fall of the Opportunity Scholarship that made colleges tuition free.
This fiscal year the Higher Education Department had a total of $75 million for Opportunity scholarships, but Rodriguez said for next year she’d like to have $100 million.
Rodriguez also asked for a boost to dual credit funding that helps high school students pay for college courses. Another $4 million would provide targeted academic advisement and $600,000 for tribal colleges — more than double the $263,000 tribal colleges receive annually now.
This report is part of our Your New Mexico Government project, a collaboration between KUNM radio and New Mexico PBS. Support for public media provided by the Thornburg Foundation.