Governor budgets for higher ed

Jan. 24—SANTA FE — The New Mexico Higher Education Department (HED) would receive $1.2 billion in Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's budget recommendations to the New Mexico Legislature for fiscal year 2024, which begins on July 1, according to an HED news release.

The governor's recommendation includes "sweeping expansions to high-demand scholarship and financial aid programs that have helped tens of thousands of New Mexicans pursue college and career training," the news release said.

This fall, the news release stated, the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship caused college enrollments to increase by more than 4 percent, making New Mexico second in the nation for college enrollment growth and countering a national trend toward enrollment declines.

The governor's budget recommendation calls for $157.4 million allocated to the scholarship, which could benefit as many as 45,000 students.

"The Opportunity Scholarship continues to be celebrated nationally as the most expansive tuition-free college program in the country," the news release stated. It covers tuition and fees for part-time returning adult students and recent high school graduates.

Other priorities in the HED budget recommendation include $10 million for the Teacher Loan Repayment Program, and $30 million for the Health Professional Loan Repayment Program.

Applications submitted to the New Mexico Higher Education Department for both programs more than doubled last year, the news release stated.

The governor's recommendation for fiscal 2024 would meet the needs of 1,600 teachers and more than 1,000 health care professionals, according to the news release.

Both programs require service commitments of at least two years in high-need service areas, for which students may receive between $6,000 and $25,000 per year in student loan relief.

The average participating teacher last year owed more than $50,000 in student debt, according to the news release, and health care students who received help from the program owed an average of $95,500.

Also, according to the news release, the state's 28 adult education programs are recommended to receive $8.7 million in funding, a $2.4 million increase, and $300,000 is also recommended to fund instructional materials and high school equivalency test fee vouchers.

In 2022, the state successfully increased enrollment in adult education programs by more than 20 percent, the news release stated.

Additional recommendations from the Governor's budget include:

— $900 million for operational funding for the state's public colleges and universities.

— An additional $87.8 million for capital outlay projects at New Mexico colleges, universities, and special schools.

— $43.3 million for health care workforce programs at colleges and universities.

— $42.5 million for graduate medical education programs at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine.

— $15.1 million for the Collaborative for Higher Education Shared Services (CHESS).

— $8.2 million for student services.

— $6.5 million for early childhood and teacher education programs,

— $3.8 million for mental and behavioral health programs from Research and Public Service Project funding.

— $7.7 million to expand the capacity of nursing programs at New Mexico colleges and universities.

— $2.4 million for the dual credit program, including $400,000 for the Tribal Dual Credit Program.

— $5 million for the Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarship and extending the program to licensed teachers seeking advanced degrees.

— $1.5 million for the College Food Initiative, part of Gov. Lujan Grisham's Food Initiative. The Department awarded $900,000 in and launched the first statewide study on student basic needs with funding appropriated in FY23.

— $2.25 million for Indigenous Education Technical Assistance Centers.

— $4 million to enhance cybersecurity at New Mexico universities.