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To help combat a critical shortage among teachers and mental and behavioral health workers, the state Higher Education Department has awarded $110.5 million in endowments, spread among 13 colleges and universities in New Mexico.
The endowments include $50 million for educator preparation, $30.5 million in the area of social work, and $30 million in support of nursing, HED Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said this week.
The interest generated from investing those principal funds can be used “to recruit and retain quality professors and researchers in New Mexico,” and to supplement salaries for new or current faculty, as well as to support students in these areas of highest need, she said.
The source of the one-time HED endowments was non-recurring federal money designated for New Mexico by the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, Rodriguez said.
“Right now, in New Mexico and across the nation, we’re seeing gaps in the health care workforce, the teacher workforce, and in our mental and behavioral health workforce, and that was really shown during the pandemic,” Rodriguez said.
To receive the monetary awards, HED put out a competitive request for applications, or an RFA, which required schools to submit project plans, budgets and an outline of the scope of their work. The RFA also required that the schools explain how they were going to increase enrollment and the number of graduates from their programs.
“Our agency then convened committees comprised of representatives in higher education and other sectors that are relevant, like health care, public education and social work, to evaluate and score the proposals and select those that met the criteria for an award,” Rodriguez said.
Based on the submissions from all 13 colleges and universities, “we estimate that over 700 new students will enroll in these programs in New Mexico at these colleges and universities,” where the endowments will also support 58 endowed faculty positions statewide, she said.