Senator Ben Ray Lujan Has Introduced a Bill to Expand New Mexico's Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

Daniella Cressman
"U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján on Thursday introduced a bill that would expand student loan forgiveness for teachers working in early childhood education and 'high-need' public schools. The Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act calls for updating the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program by having the federal government make monthly federal student loan payments for qualifying educators and would forgive outstanding federal student loan debt after a teacher has been serving for five years." —Megan Taros

"The measure, intended to help recruit and retain educators, comes as districts in New Mexico and across the nation struggle with teacher shortages. It follows an announcement last month by President Joe Biden that the federal government will forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for all current borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year." —Megan Taros

This bill is sorely needed in the state of New Mexico—too many teachers have loans they seem to be attempting to pay off eternally, and it can cause a person enormous stress, especially when they are already teaching. Governor Grisham has supported it.

"Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham threw her support behind the bill, noting it was in step with her own efforts to increase funding for New Mexico’s Teacher Loan Repayment Program. The interest in student-loan relief peaked last year as the New Mexico Higher Education Department received almost 500 new applications for debt relief, three times as many as in 2020, according to a release from the department. American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Whitney Holland said the bill would be 'life-changing' for her and educators all over New Mexico. Holland, a former elementary school teacher, has $30,000 in student debt." —Megan Taros

Unfortunately, teachers are notorious for leaving their professions within the first five years, but this measure will hopefully incentivize them to stay longer.

"An average of 8 percent of teachers leave the profession every year, according to the National Center for Education statistics, and as many as 50 percent of teachers leave within the first five years of their career. In recent years, more than 50 percent of teachers nationwide said they were considering leaving the profession following the demands and stressors during the coronavirus pandemic. Cutting down the window for debt forgiveness could be an incentive for many more to stay in the field and passing the bill could lead to improved education outcomes and teacher working conditions in New Mexico, Holland said. The state recently raised the average teacher’s salary to $64,000 a year — the highest in the Southwest — and cut down on paperwork and other administrative burdens for educators. Districts have also invested in efforts to retain teachers, such as Santa Fe Public Schools’ district-run day care for educators with children, the first of its kind in the state." —Megan Taros

Unfortunately, New Mexico regularly lands near the bottom of the list—or at the very last place—when all 50 states are ranked for the quality of their education. The reasons are many: some argue that the Land of Enchantment simply cannot afford to do more, some cite widespread poverty as an issue for parents who are only able to pay for so much, and others say it can be difficult to motivate students for one reason or another. In short, Senator Ben Ray Luján made an excellent decision.

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Canadian-American author writing about local politics, personal finance, & dining in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque, NM

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