President Joe Biden’s appearance at Central New Mexico Community College focused on student debt relief and gave Democratic leaders in the state a chance to brag about new educational opportunities for students. kindergarten to college students.
“New Mexico is considered to have one of the fastest and possibly the fastest growing or two fastest growing inclusive college enrollments in the country,” Biden said.
Biden touted the student loan debt relief website, urging people earning less than $125,000 a year to apply for up to $10,000 to cover student loan debt. He said nearly 16 million Americans and more than 150,000 New Mexicans are ready to get their loans approved. Then he accused Republicans of stalling the payment process with a lawsuit.
“Republican members of Congress and Republican governors and are doing everything they can, including taking us to court for denying aid, and even their own constituents,” he said. “Their outrage is just plain wrong.”
The president stopped by the CNM before participating in a New Mexico Democratic Party rally in the South Valley.
Central New Mexico students Eva Marr and Candice Clark watched from the front row on Thursday as Biden outlined student debt relief policies they say will reduce stress upon graduation because they help also their families thanks to the investments in education created by the leaders of New Mexico.
Without the help, school would not be an option.
“It means the difference of getting an education or not for me,” Clark said. “I wouldn’t be in school without it.”
Biden stressed that his goal when running for president was to increase support for people like Marr and Clark.
“The most important goal was to give middle-class families and working-class families a fighting chance, they had been short-sighted for a long time, in all areas,” he said. . “And that’s why I said let it be tax policy, let it be education policy, whatever it is, we’re going to build this economy from the middle, from the bottom up.”
Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-New Mexico, spoke ahead of Biden and also celebrated the importance of CNM, a place she said she frequented for her professional development.
“I got my sewage, OSHA and hazardous waste certifications here at (CNM). I took welding and fire courses. And I even took a solar engineering course and electronics,” Stansbury said. “And I don’t mean to brag, but I’m wiring a mean circuit.”
Clark and her husband are recipients of the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship, a program signed into law in 2020 by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham that covers all educational expenses at CNM and 28 other New Mexico colleges. The couple have seven children and the first to graduate from high school in 2023 will also benefit from the scholarship to attend the state university.
“He’s very interested in the aircraft mechanics program at CNM,” Clark said of his future high school graduation.
She is thrilled that a third of her family will be able to finish college without significant debt, or even the possibility of getting $10,000 in relief to cover the costs of the Biden plan.
“I just want my kids to know, and that’s the reason I’m joining college at 39 is that they have opportunities,” Clark said. “I’m a first-generation college student, and when I was growing up it was like, ‘Do you want to work in the factory in this town? Or do you want to work in the factory in this town? That was all for the opportunities for me.
Marr has a child in kindergarten, so she anticipates these federal and state investments to provide greater opportunities for her child. She already benefits from free childcare options that allow her daughter to attend school, another recent state initiative to subsidize or fully cover childcare costs.
A constitutional amendment is on the ballot in New Mexico that could increase funding for early childhood education by $200 million each year.
“My daughter goes to school five days a week, and it’s covered except that I pay taxes. It can cost $2,000 a month for child care,” Marr said. “It’s amazing. And it’s made such a difference. Because really being in school and having a youngster is really hard.
Marr just needs to file his taxes and claim his child to get the help he needs to pay for childcare and preschool.
The Opportunity scholarship requirement means that Marr and Clark must maintain a 2.5 GPA and be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours.
They say the paperwork is integrated seamlessly into their registration application and does not require heavy administrative work. They also say the cost of tuition at CNM is low enough that, combined with Pell Grants and other aid, they have extra money to buy food and other necessities for their families.
“Honestly, the lottery (stock market) has been a lot easier to work with,” Marr said.
She took a year off after graduating from high school and said it caused problems getting the Lottery scholarship, a state-funded program that funded some university expenses of over $140,000. students in New Mexico since 1996.
“I still struggled. Some semesters I have (the lottery scholarship) some semesters I don’t. Opportunity (Scholarship) has been much more stable and it’s still there,” she said.
Marr and Clark were also excited about the attention the president’s visit brought to community colleges, as it validates their experience in education.
“It shines a light on the community college and what we can do here,” Clark said.
Biden made sure to mention that First Lady Jill Biden teaches at a community college and shares the realities facing working-class students.
“Some of the students she meets are working two or three jobs while going to school, putting it on the table helping the kids with homework, staying home late,” Biden said. “I’m here today to tell you that this student loan relief plan is for them as they recover from the economic crisis, the pandemic and pay for their education.”
This story was originally written and produced by Source New Mexico, part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets, including the Daily Montanan, supported by grants and a donor coalition as a 501c (3) public charities.