Teacher Loan Repayment Program benefits more than 1,400 teachers this year
The New Mexico Higher Education Department announced that it has more than doubled the number of teachers receiving loan forgiveness through the state’s Teacher Loan Repayment Program, thanks to additional funding approved by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2022.
The agency awarded funding to 966 new applicants and renewed funding for 445 applicants, marking the largest number of teachers to ever benefit from the Teacher Loan Repayment Program in a single year. Gov. Lujan Grisham approved $5 million, a $3 million expansion for the program last year, which has benefitted more than 1,500 working New Mexico teachers since 2020. The program pays up to $6,000 per year for two years toward outstanding federal student loan debt and interest for licensed New Mexico teachers working in high-need areas and schools.
“Not only is New Mexico helping more teachers than ever before benefit from student loan relief through the Teacher Loan Repayment Program, we are also keeping more money in teachers’ pockets thanks to much deserved pay increases,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “2022 was a record-breaking year for education, and in 2023, we will continue investing in effective programs that make a difference for New Mexico’s educators, families, and communities.”
“Over the past two years, the New Mexico Higher Education Department has continued to break records with the number of teachers receiving debt forgiveness through our Teacher Loan Repayment Program, making it possible for these dedicated professionals to remain in the classroom and focus on doing what they do best – shaping New Mexico’s future.” said Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez. “Continuing to sustain effective programs like these is essential for strengthening New Mexico’s teacher workforce, and I am thankful to the educators and advocates who lend their support to expanding these resources.”
“The Teacher Loan Repayment Program is a critical tool for us to continue to make progress towards building an educator workforce that reflects the diversity of the students in our state. We are deeply committed to that reality and are grateful for the role this program plays in delivering on that promise,” said Public Education Secretary Dr. Kurt Steinhaus.
The agency’s FY24 budget recommendation includes $10 million for the program, an amount that could benefit more than 1,600 teachers in the future.
The agency worked in partnership with educator unions and advocates to successfully increase awareness about the program, resulting in a 250% increase in applications in 2022 compared to the prior year. The agency first broke program records in 2021 by awarding 600 teachers, more than double the number of recipients in 2020.
“The continued success of the Teacher Loan Repayment Program is a testament to the positive outcomes when there is a strong, collaborative partnership between the state and educational stakeholders. Efforts like these not only help keep veteran educators in the classroom but also signal to incoming educators that this profession is viable, respected, and supported. We hope this program is continued and expanded for future generations of educators in New Mexico public schools,” said President Whitney Holland of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico.
“We are encouraged by the commitment of Gov. Lujan Grisham's administration to reducing student loan debt. This concerted effort makes becoming a teacher more attractive financially, and shows a long term, big picture approach to attracting and retaining high quality educators for New Mexico's classrooms. This multi-faceted approach to moving education forward in New Mexico will ultimately produce long-lasting, meaningful results and outcomes for children,” said President Mary Parr-Sanchez of the National Education Association-New Mexico.
This year’s awardees represent 66 public school districts across New Mexico, including small rural districts such Gallup-McKinley County Schools and Wagon Mound, and teachers working at Tribal schools in Mescalero, Zuni, and the Navajo Nation. The average debt held by current applicants was $50,800.
Lindsay Jordan is a special education teacher at McKinley Elementary School in Farmington. A 44-year-old mother of four, Jordan says she loves her job teaching children with developmental disabilities from kindergarten through fifth grade but was stressed by the $27,000 in student debt she owed.
“The Teacher Loan Repayment Program is a huge financial benefit for me and my family,” Jordan said. “Teachers give a lot in the classroom and this program is an important way to help teachers get out of debt and to increase the number of teachers in New Mexico.”
Recipient teachers work in high-need areas, including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), career technical education, bilingual education, early childhood education, special education, and those teaching in schools with free and reduced lunch programs. Recipients also agree to a two-year teaching commitment while benefitting from the program and can apply to renew the award every two years if they continue to meet eligibility criteria. Preference is also given to teachers who graduate from a New Mexico college or university and to teachers from historically underrepresented groups.
The application process for the Teacher Loan Repayment Program will reopen on June 1, 2023. For more information, visit hed.nm.gov.