A record number of New Mexico teachers received state-backed student loan relief last year - Albuquerque Journal

A record number of New Mexico teachers received state-backed student loan relief last year

A history classroom at Wilson Middle School in 2021. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Student loans have been a consistent source of stress for Eljin Gorman, a Clovis High School sports medicine teacher.

But when he applied to get his loans repaid by the state last year — he was part of an all-time high number of teachers to take advantage of the program — that stress began to unravel.

Financially, Gorman said, the debt relief has been a big help — cutting the roughly $55,000 he originally had in loans down by about $6,000 in a short period of time.

But the relief also gives him more peace of mind, and has freed up some of his money to spend on his family, or sometimes even his student athletes.

“Obviously, a nickel here and there will definitely make a big impact,” he said. “The best part about it is … that you have reassurance that it’s not just you paying for your student loans — it’s your state, and you have extra support.”

In 2022, close to 1,000 new applicants like Gorman received awards and almost 450 more had existing awards renewed. Debt for the entire class of teachers in the program averages around $51,000.

In 2021, 600 teachers received debt relief awards, which at the time was a program record.

“The New Mexico Higher Education Department has continued to break records with the number of teachers receiving debt forgiveness … 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,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said in a news release.

Teachers get up to $6,000 per year for two years paid toward outstanding federal student loans. It’s aimed at teachers in “high-need” positions, including bilingual, special or early childhood education, those teaching STEM courses and those in “low performing” schools that serve high populations of economically disadvantaged students.

Anyone who gets the award must commit to staying in the profession for two years.

For the coming fiscal year, the higher education department asked for $10 million for the program, which they say could help reach over 1,600 teachers. The year before, $5 million was set aside for the program.

The application window for the next round of awards opens June 1.

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