Gov. signs measures benefitting students and higher education

Stephanie Montoya
2022 legislative session brings tuition-free college, expansion and support for workforce.

Tuition-free college for tens of thousands of New Mexicans and workforce expansions in nursing and teacher preparation are among the many outcomes from the 2022 legislative session that benefit New Mexicans in higher education and the state’s economy.  

The landmark Opportunity Scholarship Act passed the legislature with bipartisan support and will open doors for up to 35,000 New Mexicans to pursue career training certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees, even for part-time students and returning adult learners starting this Fall. Gov. Lujan Grisham signed the bill during a ceremony at Western New Mexico University on March 4.  

“This year, we are delivering transformational change for everyday New Mexicans with tuition-free college and taking big steps to strengthen and expand our workforce so that New Mexicans are empowered to train for and enter rewarding careers, all in their home state,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said. “Not only are we making history here in New Mexico, but we are setting an example nationwide of how states can accomplish things that make a lasting difference for citizens and communities.” 

Additionally, key programs aimed at expanding New Mexico’s skilled workforce, supporting the state’s Dual Credit Program, investing in adult education and literacy, and addressing student hunger on college campuses have been approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Lujan Grisham. 

New Mexico’s public colleges and universities will also receive an increase of three percent in new funding as part of the state’s higher education funding formula. Higher education institutions will submit strategic enrollment plans to the New Mexico Higher Education Department to demonstrate efforts to address student enrollment and retention prior to receiving some of the new funds.  

Scholarship Programs and Financial Aid  
  • The New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act permanently establishes the Opportunity Scholarship as the most accessible tuition-free scholarship program in the United States. A total of $75 million is directed to the program in the General Appropriations Act, meaning that up to 35,000 students could receive the scholarship starting this Fall. More than 10,000 Opportunity Scholarships have already been awarded to New Mexico students since 2020.  
  • The Lottery Scholarship will receive an infusion of $130 million that will ensure sustainability of the program for the next four years for more than 10,000 recent high school graduates pursuing associate and bachelor’s degrees full time at New Mexico’s 29 public colleges and universities.  
  • The Teacher Preparation Affordability Scholarship will receive $20 million, $5 million of which is available in FY23 to support up to 1,400 students pursuing degrees leading to teacher licensure.  
  • The Teacher Loan Repayment Program will receive $5 million toward debt relief for more than 600 New Mexico teachers working in high-need focus areas and schools. 
  • The Grow Your Own Teachers Scholarship will receive $500,000 to support educational assistants and instructional aids seeking to attain teacher licensure.  
  • The Health Professional Loan Repayment program will receive $1.6 million, a $400,000 increase from the prior year, to provide student debt relief for over 60 healthcare professionals working in high-need health-related fields and communities.  
Strengthening Workforce Pipelines 
  • New Mexico colleges and universities will receive $15 million to expand enrollment and graduation at nurse education programs statewide. Nursing programs at New Mexico public higher education institutions will receive $30 million to create endowed faculty positions, expanding the capacity of colleges and universities to train future nurses. 
  • Educator preparation programs at New Mexico public higher education institutions will receive $50 million to create endowed faculty positions, expanding the capacity of colleges and universities to train future teachers.  
  • Social work programs at New Mexico public colleges and universities will receive $50 million to create endowed faculty positions and build capacity for preparing students to enter careers in social work.  
  • New Mexico Tech, the University of New Mexico, and New Mexico State University will receive $45 million ($20 million available in FY23) to the Technology Enhancement Fund for to support innovative research and advance knowledge and production processes in the fields of agriculture, biotechnology, biomedicine, energy, materials science, microelectronics, water resources, aerospace, telecommunications, manufacturing science and similar research areas. 
  • The state’s Higher Education Endowment Fund will receive $5 million to enhance research and establish endowed chairs aimed at enhancing high-need areas of study, including healthcare, education, agriculture and water conservation, skilled workforce development, and the sciences.  
  • The Economic Development Department will receive $40 million for the creation of a Next Generation Media Academy to provide career training and pathways for students to enter film careers in New Mexico.  
  • New Mexico’s centers of excellence will receive $1.7 million, including the new Center of Excellence for Early Childhood Education at Western New Mexico University and the new Center of Excellence for Social Work at New Mexico Highlands University. 
Supporting Student Success  
  • Public colleges and universities serving high school students enrolled in the Dual Credit Program will receive $4 million to support academic and career advising, tutoring, transportation, and other supports for dual credit students. Tribal colleges will also receive $263,900 for this initiative. The Dual Credit Program helps over 15,000 high school students each year to earn both high school and college credit without paying tuition. 
  • Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Food, Farm, and Hunger initiative directs $1 million toward hunger relief projects and services for students on college and university campuses. As many as 1 in 3 college students faces food insecurity at some point.  
  • $6.7 million will go toward adult education programs providing basic skills instruction, High School Equivalency (HSE) preparation, career training, and other services to more than 5,000 New Mexicans in over 25 communities across the state in the Northern, Central, Eastern, and Southwestern workforce regions and those in New Mexico correctional facilities. 
  • Adult and family literacy programs across the state will receive $750,000, an increase of $70,000 from the prior year. These programs provide literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy services to over 1,300 New Mexicans in more than 15 communities across the state.   
  • $4.25 million will go toward continued development of New Mexico’s longitudinal data system, a partnership between the Early Childhood Education and Care, Public Education, Higher Education, and Workforce Solutions Departments to provide information to support the success of New Mexicans from cradle to career.  
  • $6 million will go toward a shared services project supporting the improvement of student data systems and services for a consortium of community and comprehensive colleges partnering across the state.  
  • New Mexico colleges and universities will receive $1.7 million for cybersecurity insurance and security assessments to protect against cyber threats and ransomware.  
Funding Operations and Infrastructure 
  • Over $215 million is available for capital projects through the 2022 General Obligation Bond (GO Bond), to be approved by voters this November to fund projects next year. In addition to providing state-of-the art facilities and needed repairs and upgrades statewide, these construction projects will employ local workforce, support local businesses, and contribute to local and regional tax revenue.     
  • An additional $35.6 million in funding for capital projects has been approved from severance tax bonds, which are repaid using revenue from taxes on oil, gas, coal, and natural resources.  
  • New Mexico colleges and universities will receive $8 million to support building renewal and replacement of campus facilities and infrastructure along with and additional $3.5 million to fund the demolition of campus facilities that are no longer in use and present a safety risk and increased liability to the campus.