New Mexico Higher Education Department achieves remarkable milestones in 2023

Stephanie Montoya

State celebrates college enrollment growth, workforce development, adult education graduates and more 

As 2023 comes to a close, the New Mexico Higher Education Department is proud to look back on a series of accomplishments that have significantly impacted education, healthcare, research, and workforce development across the state this year.  

I am proud to celebrate the strides we’ve made this year in a multitude of areas, including college access, student success, research, innovation, and many more. Thanks to the continued support of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and lawmakers, higher education continues to be a priority. With sustained investments during the upcoming legislative session, we look forward to building upon the record progress we’ve made over the past several years toward achieving the positive outcomes higher education brings for New Mexicans,” said Acting Higher Education Secretary Patricia Trujillo, Ph.D.  

The Higher Education Department, with the support of Gov. Lujan Grisham and its partners, achieved the following milestones in 2023: 

Sustained growth in undergraduate student enrollment 

New Mexico experienced a remarkable 2.3 percent increase in undergraduate student enrollment across public colleges and universities. This marks the second consecutive year of growth, following a period of decline. Since the enactment of the Opportunity Scholarship Act in 2022, the state has welcomed an additional 6,700 students, representing an impressive 7 percent increase over the last two years. 

Record-breaking expansion of the Health Professional Loan Repayment Program  

The Health Professional Loan Repayment Program achieved a historic milestone by awarding student debt relief to a record 724 New Mexico health care professionals. These professionals, committed to serving for three years in high-need communities, received a collective $14.6 million in student debt relief. 

Achieved national recognition for New Mexico’s leading work in college affordability 

Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez participated in a panel conversation alongside leaders from Ivy League and major university systems across the country as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Summit on Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. Secretary Rodriguez shared how the Opportunity Scholarship is the nation’s leading example for tuition-free college programs.  

Achieved national recognition for New Mexico’s leading work in student diversity, equity, and inclusion 

U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary James Kvaal and Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education Amy Lloyd visited Santa Fe Community College and Navajo Technical University this fall as part of a tour highlighting states and schools that are exemplars in serving diverse students and ensuring college access and affordability in the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions. New Mexico was recognized for its outstanding work in college affordability, fulfilling student basic needs, and helping BILPOC and other diverse student populations succeed. 

Investing in university research and innovation 

The Higher Education Department allocated $14.3 million in funds from the Technology Enhancement Fund to support research projects in medicine, education, agriculture, transportation engineering, and other crucial areas. Four New Mexico public universities and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center are recipients of this funding. 

Debt relief for New Mexico educators

Over 400 working teachers New Mexico were granted student debt relief, totaling $4.9 million. This initiative targeted teachers with an average debt of $48,000, providing essential financial support to those shaping the future of education in the state. 

Record outcomes for adult education programs

Adult education programs in New Mexico witnessed an 11% statewide enrollment increase, achieving remarkable outcomes in learning gains, credential attainment, and employment. High School Equivalency (HSE) completions increased by 17%, with the Corrections program doubling their completions, surpassing the LFC’s target by over 20%. 

Investing in faculty and research 

The Higher Education Department awarded $1.6 million in endowment funds to enhance research and establish endowed chairs in critical areas such as agriculture and water conservation, skilled workforce development, and STEM fields. 

Accelerating college completion 

New Mexico, in collaboration with 10 public colleges and universities, joined Complete College America’s College Accelerator Initiative. This initiative, spanning four years, aims to implement research-based practices to significantly increase college completion rates statewide. 

Continuing support for college food security 

The department launched the first statewide college basic needs study in partnership with UNM’s Basic Needs Project. Surveying over 15,000 students, faculty, and staff across 27 public colleges and universities, the initiative secured $1 million for college food projects through Gov. Lujan Grisham’s food initiative. 

Bolstering STEM and social work career pipelines 

In a commitment to fostering academic excellence, the department disbursed $10 million in scholarships for graduate students in STEM fields and $15 million for social work students. A total of 4,334 New Mexico students statewide benefited from these scholarship programs. 

Delivering college and career readiness programs to middle and high school students  

The federally funded GEAR UP program, administered by NMHED, facilitated over 1,000 students in visiting 16 college campuses and career training centers. Additionally, 71.6% of participating students engaged in GEAR UP workshops focusing on careers, SAT success, and community service. The program also hosted its first-ever Native American college and career readiness conference this spring.