Gov. Budget for Higher Education Prioritizes Free College and Workforce Development

Stephanie Montoya
Recommendation expands free college, invests in career pipeline for New Mexicans

Gov. Lujan Grisham’s executive budget recommendation for higher education in FY23 includes sweeping expansions for programs benefitting New Mexicans seeking college degrees and career training in key industries throughout the state.  

Expanding upon the widespread success of the New Mexico Opportunity and Lottery scholarships, Gov. Lujan Grisham’s budget invests $85.5 million for a comprehensive free college package that will help more than 35,000 New Mexicans pursue college degrees and career training certificates. While the state awarded over 18,000 scholarships through the Opportunity and Lottery scholarship programs this fall, expanded funding means that all New Mexicans seeking to continue their education would be eligible for a scholarship.  

“Now is the time for universal free college because every New Mexican deserves the opportunity to reach higher and pursue the education or career training that will make a difference in the wellbeing of families, communities, and our entire state,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said. “Together with Gov. Lujan Grisham, we are removing barriers and for one percent of the state’s overall budget, we are delivering a free college package that serves the diverse needs of New Mexicans, be they part-time students, working parents, returning adult learners, or recent high school graduates.”  

Investing in New Mexico’s Workforce 

The Governor’s budget also includes a fund transfer for key programs helping teachers enter and remain in the profession in New Mexico. The administration will invest $5 million toward the Teacher Loan Repayment Program to provide debt relief for working teachers in high-need areas, and an additional $5 million for the Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarship to support college students completing teacher training programs. The programs helped nearly 3,000 current and future teachers last year.    

The Higher Education Department awarded all funding expansion requests for nursing programs across the state, providing $11.4 million for nursing education at colleges and universities statewide and $216,000 to support the nursing program at Navajo Technical University. The recommendation also includes $3.8 million for the department’s Medical, Nursing, and Allied Health Loan for Service Programs and the Health Professional Loan Repayment Program.   

In partnership with the Economic Development Department, the administration seeks $50 million for the creation of a Media Academy to train and transition New Mexicans to work in the film and media industry. The academy will partner with existing film education programs at New Mexico colleges and universities and provide advanced training and paid internships for at least 1,000 students each year. 

Supporting Cradle-to-Career Education and Pathways 

A proposal of $9 million, an overall increase of $2.5 million, is recommended for the state’s adult education programs that prepare New Mexicans to earn a high school equivalency credential, gain basic skills, learn English as a second language, and participate in career training or transition into college. Adult literacy programs across the state would receive $750,000.  

A total of $10 million is recommended for the Dual Credit Program to help high school students earn both high school and college credit for taking college courses. More than 18,000 New Mexico high school students participated in the program last year, which waives the cost of tuition and fees for participants. Students enrolled in the Dual Credit Program are twice as likely to graduate from college on time and maintain a higher college grade point average.  

As part of the Governor’s Food Farm and Hunger Initiative under the Department of Finance and Administration, $1 million will go toward student hunger relief on college and university campuses. According to a recent University of New Mexico report, as many as 1 in 3 college students faces food insecurity during their college career.  

Another $7.5 million is proposed to continue development of a state longitudinal data system that will incorporate databases across education and workforce agencies to inform data-driven policies for improving outcomes for New Mexicans from birth to career. Additionally, $15.2 million is recommended for a shared services project supporting the improvement of student data systems and services at community colleges and $1.7 million for cybersecurity insurance and security assessments at public higher education institutions across the state.

Expanding Excellence and Innovation 

The state’s Higher Education Endowment Fund would receive $5 million to enhance research and establish endowed chairs aimed at enhancing high-need areas of study at public colleges and universities in New Mexico. An additional $151 million is recommended for existing research and public services projects and state agencies housed at higher education institutions benefitting students and communities across the state. Included in the recommendation is support for the Institute of American Indian Education at the University of New Mexico to provide culturally-relevant teacher training.  

Another $1 million is recommended for the creation of a Center of Excellence for Early Childhood Education and Care at Western New Mexico University and a Center of Excellence for Social Work, Mental, and Behavioral Health at New Mexico Highlands University. New Mexico’s existing Centers of Excellence would receive $2 million in sustained funding to continue economic development and education initiatives in cybersecurity, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and bioscience. 

Funding Operations and Infrastructure  

The executive recommendation includes an additional $12.7 million in new operational funds to be distributed to New Mexico public colleges and universities via the state higher education funding formula and a 4 percent compensation increase for higher education employees.  

Over $200 million is included in the executive recommendation to replace older buildings and to fund facility and infrastructure improvement projects statewide, with an additional $17.4 million included to address building renewal and replacement needs at college and university campuses across the state.

The statewide investment and impact on students and communities across New Mexico remains a great value for taxpayers, as higher education funding accounts for just 12 percent of the state’s $8.4 billion budget.