Highest number of health professionals ever to receive debt relief via state program

Stephanie Montoya

The New Mexico Higher Education Department announced Wednesday that it has awarded student debt relief to the largest number of working health professionals in program history through the state’s Health Loan Repayment Program.  

A record 724 New Mexico health care professionals will receive $14.6 million in student debt relief as a condition of maintaining a three-year commitment to working in high-need communities across the state. This is a huge increase from the 44 health professionals who were awarded debt relief last year. 

"We increased funding for the Health Loan Repayment Program by $13 million this year as part of a comprehensive strategy to recruit and retain more health care professionals in our state,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “This program ultimately moves us further toward our goal of accessible, affordable and high quality health care for every New Mexican.”  

“For many years, the New Mexico Higher Education Department has had a greater number of applicants for our Health Professional Loan Repayment Program than available funding could support, but with this year’s funding, we can finally meet the needs that exist across our state. Dedicated health care professionals are essential to the health and wellbeing of New Mexicans, but high student debt loads can make it difficult for providers to stay and work in rural, low-income, and high-need communities,” said Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez.  

“Providing high quality health care to all New Mexicans is one of our top priorities,” said Health Secretary Patrick Allen. “The state’s support of more than 700 medical professionals by repaying their loans means an expansion of our health care workforce and a healthier New Mexico.”  

Gov. Lujan Grisham and the legislature approved $14.6 million for the program in FY24, a $13 million increase from the prior year. The New Mexico Higher Education Department has continued to promote the program, increasing the number of applicants by twelve fold.  

This year’s pool of recipients includes 335 nurses, 159 mental health professionals, 84 medical doctors, 79 nurse practitioners, 62 allied health practitioners and 5 dental professionals. The average debt carried by this year’s recipients is $75,000. 

Program recipient Kiana Cateriano was carrying $52,000 in debt, $51,000 of which will be forgiven through the program over the next three years. A graduate of New Mexico Highlands University’s Master of Social Work Program, Cateriano works as a psychotherapist at Solace Sexual Assault Services in Santa Fe. 

“This program makes public service work more attractive and will go a long way toward filing the needs in New Mexico. I wasn’t eligible for mortgage assistance because of my debt load, but now I plan to move forward toward buying a home, which is something I didn’t foresee being possible for myself,” she said.  

The Health Loan Repayment program covers more than 25 health occupations and licenses in allied health, dental, medical and mental health fields. Included are medical doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses, mental health counselors, licensed clinical social workers, speech language pathologists, and occupational therapists. A full list of eligible professions is available at hed.nm.gov. The program opens to applicants on March 15 each year.  

For more information about financial aid programs at the New Mexico Higher Education Department, visit hed.nm.gov.