WASHINGTON D.C. — New Mexico Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez joined U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and senior Biden-Harris administration officials in Washington last Wednesday for the National Summit on Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.
The Summit marked a key next step in the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to advance diversity and opportunity in higher education following the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action.
“You are the higher education leaders this county needs to transform this moment from a low point in our history to a turning point in our history, a turning point that propels leaders at every level to reimagine the pursuit of diversity and equity in education. Every generation is called upon to renew the promise of America, and this is our moment to be innovative, to act with urgency, and to lead with courage,” Secretary Cardona said, addressing leaders present at the event.
Secretary Rodriguez participated in the panel discussion, “Committing to Educational Opportunity for All Students” to discuss New Mexico’s leading work in creating access to higher education for diverse students through the Opportunity Scholarship and other initiatives. She also spoke about her family’s lineage as Mexican migrant farmworkers, the diversity of New Mexico’s population, and the impact of higher education on her own life and career.
“I am really proud of the fact that in New Mexico, we are the land of tuition-free college … There is no wrong door to higher education in our state, whether that is at a two-year college, a four-year college, a high-demand certificate, an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree,” Rodriguez said. “Under the direction of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, it is very clear that we have to work together for the betterment of our communities and our state as a whole.”
She was joined on the panel by University of California President Michael V. Drake, Brown University President Christina H. Paxson, University of California, Davis Chancellor Gary S. May, and City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado.
New Mexico has provided tuition-free college to over 36,000 New Mexicans since last year, with nearly 60 percent of recipients identifying as Hispanic, Native American, Black, and other students of color and more than half of recipients identifying as women. The program led to a 4 percent overall enrollment increase in New Mexico last fall with notable growth in the number of first-generation students and students from historically underrepresented groups.
Secretary Rodriguez also highlighted the state’s continued investments in student success through initiatives on food and housing security, mental and behavioral health, and access to child care for parenting students. Gov. Lujan Grisham approved over $4 million in recent years toward the College Food Security Initiative and to expand mental and behavioral health services for college students, and has made child care free for residents whose household incomes are at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
The full summit video and transcript are available here from the U.S. Department of Education. The panel featuring Secretary Rodriguez begins at the 36-minute mark.