FROM THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday announced an improved proposal for tuition-free college, the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship, incorporating the thoughtful and inspired feedback of legislators, educators and students alike.
Sponsored by Rep. Tomás Salazar, the updated legislation, House Bill 14, will be heard in the House Education Committee Monday morning. A Senate version of the bill introduced by Sen. Bill O’Neill (Senate Bill 323) is expected to be heard by the Senate Education Committee this week.
The Opportunity Scholarship will move forward as a “middle-dollar” scholarship, covering the gap tuition and fee gap remaining after the application of the Lottery Scholarship and other state scholarships to ensure coverage of 100 percent of tuition and fees. Federal Pell grants, GI Bill benefits, and institutional and private scholarships will be applied after the Opportunity Scholarship, enabling students to leverage additional financial aid for costs of attendance and living expenses.
“The Opportunity Scholarship will launch a positive and ultimately self-fulfilling cycle of educational opportunity and economic growth,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “If we build a diversified economy and provide every chance for New Mexicans to build a career and start a family here, they will stay. Higher education is a big part of that. Truly, an investment in higher education is an investment in New Mexico’s future.”
To be implemented in two phases, the Opportunity Scholarship will cover two-year college (including trade and certificate programs) for both recent high school graduates and returning adults in Year One and expand to additionally cover four-year bachelor’s degree programs for recent high school graduates in Year Two.
The revamped Opportunity Scholarship proposal strengthens the governor’s goal of enacting a program that will improve access to higher education for New Mexicans, restoring the promise of the first-in-the-nation Lottery Scholarship.
“I’m always glad to incorporate feedback to make a good idea even better,” the governor said. “I’m looking forward to working with lawmakers to ensure students and families all across the state are made whole with this game-changing scholarship proposal. New Mexico students and families need an advocate. I am firmly in their corner.”
The following is information from the Governor’s office about the Opportunity Scholarship:
Phase 1: 100% tuition & fee coverage for two-year college, including trade programs and credit-bearing certificates, for recent high school graduates and returning adults (24 years old or older)
Phase 2: Expanding 100% tuition & fee coverage to also include four-year bachelor’s degree programs for recent high school graduates
Why do we need the Opportunity Scholarship?
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration is investing in transformative opportunities for New Mexico families, and that transformation begins with education. By creating tuition- free higher education for New Mexicans at public institutions across the state, we are ensuring students and returning-adult learners have every chance to pursue and attain the skills they need to thrive in a 21st-century economy. New Mexico was the first state to offer tuition-free college through the Lottery Scholarship. But tuition has risen while lottery earnings have declined, leaving college students with a significant financial burden – significant enough that many New Mexicans decide they can’t afford to access higher education.
The Opportunity Scholarship will ensure that New Mexico students can once again afford to seek higher education, filling the gap left by the Lottery Scholarship and other state aid to cover 100% of tuition and fees. The Opportunity Scholarship will be implemented in two phases over the course of two years. In Year One, the Opportunity Scholarship will implement 100% coverage of tuition and fees for both recent high school graduates and returning-adult learners enrolling in trade programs, credit-bearing certificates and associate degree programs, commonly referred to as two-year community college programs. In Year Two, the Opportunity Scholarship will expand to additionally cover 100% of tuition and fees for recent high school graduates enrolled full-time in four-year bachelor’s degree programs. Beginning in Year Two, this essential investment by the state will ensure that 55,000 students see the impact of tuition-free college. Enrollment will increase at all 29 of New Mexico’s public colleges and universities. The stage will be set for big economic benefits in the future, including better employment opportunities, higher overall incomes, and a stronger workforce for New Mexico. That’s why the Opportunity Scholarship matters.
Restoring the Promise of the Lottery Scholarship
The Lottery Scholarship was intended to provide tuition-free college for New Mexico high school graduates; but over time, the scholarship coverage has diminished. Today, the Lottery Scholarship only covers 60% to 75% of those costs for students. By supplementing the Lottery Scholarship with the Opportunity Scholarship, students will pay no tuition or fees at any of the state’s 29 public institutions of higher education. This benefit will incentivize students to remain in New Mexico to pursue their education, resulting in a stronger workforce and associated economic benefits.
In order to maintain continuity of the state’s existing scholarship programs, eligibility requirements for both the Lottery and Opportunity scholarships (recent high school graduates and honorably discharged veterans) will remain the same as the current requirements of the Lottery Scholarship.
It is important to note that we have witnessed the following benefits from the Legislative Lottery Scholarship (FY13-FY18):
Students receiving the Lottery Scholarship are three times more likely to receive a degree. Students with four or more semesters with the Lottery Scholarship have a 70 percent degree completion rate. Students with seven or more semesters have a 95 percent degree completion rate.
What is a “Middle-Dollar” Scholarship?
The Lottery Scholarship remains what is considered a “first-dollar” scholarship in New Mexico. Students receive a tuition benefit based on their eligibility upon high school graduation or honorable military discharge. The Opportunity Scholarship is a “middle-dollar” scholarship, covering the tuition and fee gap remaining after the application of the Lottery Scholarship and other state scholarships. Federal Pell grants, GI Bill benefits, and institutional and private scholarships are applied after the Opportunity Scholarship, enabling students to leverage additional financial aid for costs of attendance and living expenses.