College of Education receives state help to fund scholarships for aspiring teachers

Faced with the rising number of teacher vacancies throughout New Mexico, state policy makers are addressing the issue by providing funds to help aspiring teachers pay for their college tuition.

Aracely Estrada, far left, a current educational assistant, works with students during University Hills Elementary School’s afterschool program in Las Cruces. Seated on the floor with students is former educational assistant Vanessa Loya. Educational assistants, who are completing teacher programs and plan to become licensed teachers in New Mexico, may qualify to receive scholarships at NMSU as part of two acts passed by the state legislature in 2019.

As part of the Teacher Preparation Affordability Act and the Grow Your Own Teachers Act, NMSU has received $700,000 in funds to provide scholarships to students studying to become teachers, as well as area educational assistants completing programs to become licensed teachers in New Mexico.

The scholarships will be awarded to sophomores, juniors and seniors in the college. In spring 2020, second-semester freshmen who are 120 days from having received their high school diploma will qualify for funds as well.

“These scholarships will help reduce the cost for teachers to earn licensure, which will allow early career teachers an opportunity to take home more money and not have a lot of student loans,” says Henrietta Williams Pichon, NMSU College of Education interim associate dean for academic affairs.

In all, the New Mexico Higher Education Department is making $10 million in scholarships available to students in colleges and universities throughout the state. The state legislature passed the Grow Your Own Teachers Act in early 2019, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Teacher Preparation Affordability Act into law in March 2019.

According to a report by researchers in the NMSU College of Education, there were 740 teacher vacancies in New Mexico in 2018, compared to 476 teacher vacancies in 2017. The college is working on several initiatives to address teacher vacancies in the state. The college also houses the Alternative Licensure Program, a program of study approved by the New Mexico Public Education Department that leads to an initial teacher licensure through online and in-person courses. Program participants may obtain a license in elementary, secondary or special education in New Mexico.

For more information about the College of Education at NMSU visit https://education.nmsu.edu.

Adriana M. Chávez ’19