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Citing budget, UNM drops program for teacher mentors

Citing the “current budget climate,” University of New Mexico’s College of Education will halt a stipend program for teachers who host student teachers in their classroom – one that costs less than $10,000 per year.

The college recently announced it would temporarily stop “honorarium” payments to teachers who help mentor and prepare UNM students pursuing education careers. Such stipends run just $50 or $100 per teacher, but the college’s dean issued a letter last month indicating they were not financially feasible right now.

“Please know this was an extremely difficult decision as we had to balance the recognition of the importance of cooperating teachers with the reality of fiscal constraints. The University is facing a significant budget shortfall and the College of Education has endured cuts with the expectation for more on the way,” Dean Hector Ochoa wrote.

“The College has worked diligently to reduce spending and become more efficient, but it was clear that the only way to continue to provide an honorarium would be to increase fees for our students.”

The college chose to temporarily stop the program rather than pass the costs to its students, he said. UNM will pay teachers participating this spring but not issue stipends starting this fall. The letter states the school is “committed to a timely reinstatement.”

New Mexico law requires student teaching experience to qualify for teaching licenses, and UNM places about 300 of its students with participating teachers around the state each semester. Host teachers get $50 or $100 depending on the level of field experience needed by the UNM student.

UNM has in recent years paid the bill with its own funds and some student fees. Its direct costs have ranged from $4,470 to $8,500 over the past three years, according to numbers provided by the school.

No teachers have contacted UNM since the letter’s release to withdraw as participants in the program, officials say. The message has prompted some to reaffirm their commitment, according to Anne Madsen, associate dean at the college.

“They don’t do it for the money,” she said in a Journal interview.

Smith Frederick, operations director for the college’s Center for Student Success, said other parts of the country experiencing a shortage of willing teachers will sometimes ask those who do participate to take on two students, though he said that is not an issue in New Mexico now.

“We’ve been very fortunate our teachers in the state of New Mexico are wonderfully talented individuals who love to give back to the profession,” he said.

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