New Mexico — the Land of Enchantment — is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, national parks, and historic sites. However, it’s more than just beautiful landscapes. For families and young people, the state can be a great place to get an education and launch a career.
The state also has a robust financial aid program for residents, including grants, scholarships, and low-interest New Mexico student loans. You can get free money to pay for college or, if you have already graduated, the state might forgive some or all of your loans.
The state of New Mexico student loans
When it comes to affordability and education, New Mexico is hard to beat. A recent Student Loan Hero study found that at just $113 per college credit, the state’s public universities offer the cheapest prices per credit in the nation. You can get an excellent education at a fraction of the price you’d pay in other states, such as Vermont, where credits cost an average of $466.
Over half of all graduates from New Mexico schools have student loan debt, but they tend to have less debt than the national average.
According to the Institute for College Access and Success, New Mexico graduates have $21,373 in student loan debt, on average. Compare that to the national average of $37,172 and it’s clear that New Mexico residents come out ahead.
That cheaper education can result in big rewards. Earning a bachelor’s degree can dramatically improve your earning potential if you live and work in the state. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, high school graduates in New Mexico earn just $25,747 per year. Graduates with a four-year degree earn $43,257 per year, a 68 percent increase.
Helpful resources for borrowers with student loans in New Mexico
To make college more affordable, the New Mexico Higher Education Department operates several programs that offer loan repayment aid. Here’s a full list of programs that might help you.
Loan repayment assistance programs
Some fields, such as teaching, are notoriously underpaid. However, those roles are essential for the community’s well-being. To help residents afford an education and encourage students to work in certain fields, New Mexico has five student loan repayment assistance programs:
1. New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Loan Repayment Program
If you’re a public service worker in a critical need position, you could qualify for loan repayment assistance. To be eligible, you must complete at least two years of service within the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department. Your degree must be relevant to the department’s critical needs and you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
The loan repayment program opens on July 1 every year and closes on Aug. 15. When the program is open to applicants, you can complete the application online.
2. Health Professional Loan Repayment Program
Practicing health professionals who make a two-year service commitment in a high-need area can receive up to $25,000 per year to repay their student loans.
You must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident and you need to live in New Mexico for at least 12 months before you apply. You must be licensed or certified at the time and working full time.
The application period begins on March 15 and closes on May 1, but you can learn more about the program’s details now.
3. John R. Justice Loan Repayment Program
Prosecutors and public defenders in New Mexico can receive up to $8,300 per year through the John R. Justice Loan Repayment Program. Eligible recipients can receive the award for multiple years, but repayment assistance cannot exceed $60,000.
To be eligible, you must be a prosecutor or public defender for the state, tribal, or local government or a qualifying nonprofit organization. Prosecutors who work for the federal government are not eligible.
Only federal student loans qualify for this program. Applications are not yet available but can be found on the Higher Education Department website.
4. Public Service Law Loan Repayment Program
If you’re an attorney who works in public service and you make $55,000 or less per year, you might be eligible for up to $7,200 in student loan repayment assistance.
To qualify, you must be a licensed attorney in New Mexico and work for the state or local government or a qualifying nonprofit organization. You must serve at least three years and your loans cannot have been in default in the past. You also need to ensure you’ve exhausted school-offered repayment assistance programs before applying.
Applications are available on Oct. 1 and are due by Feb. 1.
5. Teacher Loan Repayment Program
Teachers working in high-risk positions in public schools can receive student loan repayment assistance in return for at least two years of service.
You must be a citizen of the U.S. and have lived in New Mexico for at least 12 months to qualify. You need to work for a public school that’s not meeting acceptable academic proficiency levels.
Applications are available on March 1 and must be submitted by May 1.
NM student loans and financial aid for current students
New Mexico residents who are current high school or college students can find many grant, scholarship, and loan-for-service programs that help make college more affordable.
New Mexico grants
Grants are a great form of financial aid you can receive. Unlike other forms of assistance, such as student loans, grants are usually “free money,” meaning you generally never have to pay them back. Grants can help reduce your education costs so you don’t need to rely on debt to pay your tuition and fees.
New Mexico has two state-sponsored grants:
1. College Affordability Grant
The College Affordability Grant is for students with financial need but who are ineligible for other state grants and scholarships. Eligible students can receive up to $1,000 per semester to attend school at a public New Mexico university or college or tribal college.
You must be enrolled at least half time and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify. To apply for the grant, contact your school’s financial aid office.
2. Student Incentive Grant
Under the Student Incentive Grant, students with a significant financial need can receive up to $2,500 per year if they attend a public New Mexico college or university or tribal college.
To qualify, you must be enrolled at least half time. You can apply for the grant by contacting your school’s financial aid office.
New Mexico scholarships
Like grants, scholarships usually do not have to be repaid. You can apply for and receive several scholarships and combine the awards to pay for college.
Some are need based and require you to demonstrate financial hardship. Other awards are merit based, where the state awards scholarships based on your academic or athletic accomplishments.
The state offers eight scholarships:
1. Legislative Lottery Scholarship Program
This scholarship will pay a percentage of your tuition. There’s no need to apply; the college you attend will determine your eligibility and award. You could qualify for the scholarship if you meet the following criteria:
- You are pursuing an undergraduate degree
- You completed a high school degree or received an equivalent credential while being a New Mexico resident
- You enroll in school within 16 months of graduating or receiving an equivalent credential
- You enroll in and earn 15 credit hours per semester at a public four-year school, or 12 credit hours per semester at a public two-year school
- You maintain at least a 2.5 GPA
Note that students with disabilities might qualify for reduced requirements.
2. New Mexico Scholars
The New Mexico Scholars Scholarship covers the cost of tuition, books, and fees for up to four years.
To be eligible for this scholarship, you are required to meet the following criteria:
- You must be a resident of New Mexico
- You must have graduated in the top 5 percent of your high school class or obtained scores of at least 1140 on the SAT or 25 on the ACT
- You must attend an eligible public or private university
- You are pursuing an undergraduate degree and are enrolled full time
- Your family makes $60,000 per year or less
To apply, contact your school’s financial aid office.
3. Athletic Scholarship
If you’re a student athlete, you might be eligible for a scholarship that covers tuition and fees. Athletic scholarships are available to both New Mexico residents and non-residents.
To qualify, you must attend one of the following schools:
- Eastern New Mexico University
- New Mexico Highlands University
- New Mexico Junior College
- New Mexico State University
- University of New Mexico
- Western New Mexico University
Contact the school’s financial aid office or athletic department for details.
4. The Bridge Scholarship
The Bridge Scholarship award can range in value; in some cases, it may cover the full cost of tuition and fees. To qualify, students must be a resident of New Mexico and have graduated from a public, accredited high school.
Contact your school’s financial aid office for details and to apply.
5. Competitive Scholarship
Although the Competitive Scholarship can be small in value, non-resident and non-citizen recipients who receive at least $100 from it are eligible for New Mexico resident tuition and fee rates. This can help students save thousands by avoiding out-of-state tuition costs.
To qualify, you must be a non-citizen or non-resident and attend a public, four-year school in New Mexico full time. Contact your school’s financial aid office for more information.
6. Graduate Scholarship
Students from underrepresented groups in graduate education can receive up to $7,200 per year through the Graduate Scholarship program. If you’re pursuing your master’s degree, you can receive the scholarship for up to two years.
- You must be a member of an underrepresented group and have a financial need
- You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- You must be willing to take on an unpaid internship or assistantship
Your school’s financial aid office determines additional eligibility requirements and awards, so contact them for more information.
7. Vietnam Veterans’ Scholarship
If you served in the military during the Vietnam War, you might be eligible for the Vietnam Veterans’ Scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition, fees, and books.
Eligible students must be a resident of the state and certified as a Vietnam veteran by the New Mexico Veterans’ Service Center. You must have been honorably discharged and either a resident of the state when you enlisted or have been living in the state for at least 10 years.
For more information, contact your school’s financial aid department.
8. Firefighters and Peace Officers Scholarship
If a family member was a firefighter or peace officer and passed away in the line of duty, you might be eligible for the Firefighters and Peace Officers Scholarship. It covers the cost of tuition at a public university.
Both you and the deceased loved one must have been residents of New Mexico at the time of death. If your child served and died, they must have been at least 21 when they passed away.
To request an application, send an email to email@example.com.
New Mexico loans for service
Advanced degrees, such as graduate or doctoral degrees, can be prohibitively expensive. The high cost of education can deter some people from pursuing certain fields, such as health care. To help make higher education more affordable, New Mexico offers incentives to those entering certain fields.
New Mexico has seven student loans for service programs. The state distributes low-interest loans and, if you’re willing to work in the state in a high-need area, they will even forgive some or all of your loan balance after you graduate.
The following careers can qualify:
- Physician assistant
- Nurse Educator
Depending on your field, you could receive up to $25,000 per year in a loan and have 100 percent of your loan forgiven once you complete your service term.
Statute of limitations on NM student loans
If it’s been years since you graduated and you’ve fallen behind on your payments, look into statute of limitation laws for New Mexico student loans.
When it comes to debt, “statute of limitations” is a legal phrase that means debt collectors can’t come after you for defaulted or delinquent student loans after a certain period of time. Student loans are written contracts, so under New Mexico law, debt collectors can’t sue you after six years.
It’s important to know that federal student loans don’t fall under the statute of limitations for debt; only private student loans are eligible. Plus, if you make a payment on your loans in default, the statute of limitations timeline starts over.
To learn more about what New Mexico’s statute of limitations means for you, check out this article.
Pursuing your goals when you have student loans
Paying for college and repaying your student loans can be a serious challenge. However, there are a surprising number of programs available that can help reduce your education costs or debt.
Doing your homework and seeing if you qualify for any assistance could help you save thousands.
If you need help managing your New Mexico student loans, we can help you tackle your debt and identify repayment options for free.
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