Higher Education Department partners with Children, Youth and Families Department to award student debt relief to 133 employees 

HED Contact: Stephanie J. Montoya
Communications Director
(505) 467-9605

CYFD Contact: Jessica Preston
Deputy Communications Director
(505) 699-2262

For Immediate Release
April 9, 2024

SANTA FE The New Mexico Higher Education Department, in collaboration with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD), has awarded college debt relief to 133 CYFD employees via its CYFD Worker Loan Repayment Program.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham approved $432,000 for the program for the coming year, which aims to alleviate financial burdens and promote career advancement opportunities for professionals committed to serving New Mexico’s children and families at CYFD. With an average debt load of $33,000 per participant, the assistance significantly contributes to the recruitment and retention of CYFD workers.

“Removing financial barriers to social work education is the answer to increasing the number of trained and certified New Mexicans filling the most critical positions at CYFD all across our state,” stated New Mexico Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez. “The New Mexico Higher Education Department is proud to partner with CYFD in continuing this impactful program and working with social work education programs statewide to produce dedicated and qualified graduates to help New Mexico’s most vulnerable children and families.”

“I am grateful to Gov. Lujan Grisham for recognizing the incredibly valuable nature of the work these individuals do for the young people of New Mexico. It is a meaningful difference in the lives of this hard-working team and ensures that they will be able to continue to serve in this critical work.” said CYFD Secretary Teresa Casados. “The New Mexico Higher Education Department has shown bold leadership in making sure that every person in our state has access to a high-quality education and we all benefit from that leadership. This is an example of what is possible when we work across agencies with our attention on the needs of the people.”

Eligible participants must have satisfactorily completed two years of service with CYFD, hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a critical field, and work directly with children and families in designated positions.

According to a report by the New Mexico Social Work Task Force, the state faces a shortage of social workers across various fields of practice, including behavioral health, LGBTQ services, criminal justice, child welfare, schools, gerontology, health, poverty, and early childhood development. Increasing the number of New Mexicans with undergraduate and advanced degrees in areas leading to careers at CYFD will address these critical needs.

One beneficiary of the program, Jesus Garcia, shared his journey from a high school graduate to a corrections officer supervisor in CYFD’s Juvenile Justice Division. Garcia, who initially worked at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute while attending college, paused his education to support his family. However, upon learning about job opportunities at CYFD and the loan repayment program, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in digital forensics.

“The CYFD Worker Loan Repayment Program has relieved a significant portion of my educational debt, allowing me to focus on my career and personal growth,” expressed Garcia. “Employees benefiting from this program feel valued and are motivated to continue serving with dedication.”

Garcia says he’s been able to tell colleagues about the program, as well as the youth under his care. “I let them know that they can get an education and if they work hard enough, they can get this kind of support. They can do it; it takes work, but you can do it.”

The electronic application for the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Worker Loan Repayment Program opens annually on August 15th and closes on October 1st. Funding preference is given to New Mexico residents, priority professions determined by the selection committee, graduates from New Mexico colleges and universities and individuals filling designated critical need positions.

For more information about the program and eligibility criteria, visit hed.nm.gov.


The New Mexico Higher Education Department was established in 2005 and oversees the state’s public and tribal colleges, universities and special schools. It also oversees adult education and literacy programs statewide, manages state-funded financial aid programs and capital projects for higher education institutions, provides college readiness services via the GEAR UP program, and grants state authorization to private colleges operating within New Mexico. For more information, visit hed.nm.gov or follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram at @NMHigherEd.