Finally, good news – great news that our students and their families can build on.
State officials announced last week that after years of breaking their promises, the New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship Program will once again cover the full tuition fees of eligible students from state over the next academic year.
“This is what is needed at the end of a pandemic,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said.
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While he is shy of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s vision of a free college, it is an important step in that direction. Established in 1996, the Lottery Scholarship paid full tuition fees to eligible students from 1996 to 2015, leveling the playing field for tens of thousands of students each year. The scholarship was reduced to levels as low as 60% in 2017 due to rising tuition fees, delayed lottery sales, and lack of state funding. It only covered 66.7% of tuition fees at UNM this school year. And it doesn’t fund other college expenses like room and board, textbooks and labs, and student fees. (As a gateway to the Governor’s Free College Pledge, the new Opportunity Scholarship covers tuition and fees at two-year institutions, and UNM’s Lobo Freshman Pledge covers tuition fees. base and fees for first-year students with an annual family income of less than $ 50,000.)
Full funding was exactly what student government leaders at the University of New Mexico, State University of New Mexico and New Mexico Tech requested in February in an op-ed in the Journal. “It’s not just important for the students themselves, it’s important for their families, communities, siblings – it affects us all,” wrote UNM student Dulce Saldivar in the ‘editorial.
The lottery purse will be fully funded at $ 63.5 million in fiscal year 2021-2022, a 30% increase, with additional funds coming from several sources, including $ 15.5 million appropriated by the State lawmakers earlier this year brought in $ 37 million from planned lottery ticket sales, and money carried over from last year. By law, at least 30% of lottery income must go to scholarships, but that has not been enough in recent years to keep the 100% tuition pledge.
Rodriguez says officials are exploring ways to keep the scholarship 100% funded beyond next year. This is critical. Students and their families need to be assured that they will be able to cover the tuition fees in the following years so that the scholarship translates into not only college / university enrollment but also college degrees. / academics. As Raven Otero-Symphony, a first generation student at UNM, said in the February 14 editorial, the lottery scholarship was the key to going to college and “higher education is going to be ( ma) long-term survival that will break the cycle of generational poverty.
UNM Student Body President Mia Amin, NMSU Student Body President Mathew Madrid and New Mexico Tech Student Body President Quincy Bradfield wrote in the editorial that many students in Four-year state-funded institutions should make tough choices to continue their education. without full funding of tuition fees. “As a state, we must be prepared to recruit staff for companies like Amazon, Facebook and Theia Group Satellite Company as they move to the Land of Enchantment.”
The Lottery Scholarship is a great equalizer that puts higher education within the reach of many people who otherwise would not be able to attend university. Fully funding tuition fees at our four-year institutions is a wise investment for the state that will pay dividends for decades to come, increasing the number of degrees in the region and, ultimately, better employing newcomers. graduates in New Mexico.
Full tuition funding was a promise made over a decade ago. The governor and lawmakers have held it for next school year and should make sure it is a promise kept.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the journal rather than that of the authors.