Lawmakers and Council on Higher Education Propose Free In-State Tuition for New Mexico Residents | Legislature | New Mexico Legislative Session

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s plan to offer free tuition to all New Mexico residents attending colleges in the state may get a second chance.

A new proposal backed by two Democratic lawmakers and the state Department of Higher Education would cover tuition for up to 35,000 eligible students, regardless of income status.

The plan would combine all of the state’s existing college scholarships into one aid pool and dramatically increase available funding.

“The real goal is to ensure college affordability, to establish a comprehensive free college program that combines all scholarships for new Mexicans wishing to enroll,” said Joy Garratt, D-Albuquerque. , co-sponsor of the eventual legislation. lawmakers from the Interim Study Committee on Legislative Education in a meeting on Monday.

For years, New Mexico has developed initiatives to cover some tuition for college and university students in the state, including recent high school graduates and adults. But the state has yet to provide enough money to meet Lujan Grisham’s goal of free tuition for all, which she first announced in 2019 as the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship.

The new proposal — which Garratt and his co-sponsor, Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Cerrillos, have not yet filed — would cost $137.5 million, according to the Department of Higher Education.

Lawmakers are expected to approve $85.5 million, Garratt said.

The remaining $52 million would be transferred from the Legislative Lottery Scholarship Program, which derives revenue from the sale of lottery tickets, Stephanie Montoya, a spokeswoman for the Department of Higher Education, wrote in a statement. E-mail.

Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said in September that her agency was working on a budget request that would include the cost of a “free university for all.”

The aid would be available to any undergraduate student seeking a business certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree, Rodriguez told lawmakers Monday.

Montoya confirmed that there would be no income eligibility requirements to apply for the funding.

A student would need to maintain a 2.5 grade point average to receive aid and take at least six credit hours per semester at a New Mexico state or tribal college. The aid would only be available for students who have not yet obtained a bachelor’s degree.

Scholarships would be awarded for each semester but could be renewed if the student continued to meet the eligibility requirements.

Under current state tuition assistance programs, eligible New Mexico students have two options. If they are seeking an associate’s degree at a two-year college, they can apply for the Opportunity Scholarship, which covers the remaining tuition after all other government aid options have been applied.

The Legislative Lottery Scholarship, launched in the mid-1990s, provided up to 100% of tuition – and as little as 65% – to recent high school graduates seeking an associate or fellowship. ‘a Bachelor’s degree.

Together, the two scholarship programs serve approximately 17,600 students, according to data from the Department of Higher Education.

But both have faced challenges trying to serve all eligible students.

According to state law, 30% of gross New Mexico Lottery revenue goes to the lottery’s scholarship fund. But with declining ticket sales and rising tuition fees, the scholarship program is struggling to keep pace with demand.

Lujan Grisham introduced the Opportunity Scholarship in September 2019 as a $26 million program to cover tuition for up to 55,000 students who first apply for federal grant and scholarships.

Lawmakers allocated $17 million for the program in the 2020 legislative session and made it available only to two-year community college students. In a special session in June 2020, however, the fund was reduced to $5 million after state revenues plummeted amid the COVID-19 pandemic and falling oil prices.

Rodriguez said the Opportunity Fellowship was funded with $18 million in the 2021 legislative session.

Representative Raymundo Lara, D-Chamberino, asked several questions about student eligibility for the proposed aid, noting that eligibility requirements for existing scholarship programs vary.

“I’m asking as a parent of a student,” he laughed. Her son attends New Mexico State University.

After the meeting, Lara said the new plan “seems like a good idea, putting it all together.”

But he said he would like to see the eligibility requirements “further fleshed out.” I’m worried about clarity.

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