The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE — A college scholarship that’s bankrolled by the state lottery may become merit-based or granted on financial need, New Mexico’s Senate majority leader has acknowledged.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, told a summit organized by University of New Mexico student leaders that his long-held stance that the scholarship should be available to all New Mexican students, regardless of financial need or academic accomplishments, might have to change.
That’s because a Legislative Finance Committee reported in September that the scholarship fund is projected to run out of money in the next fiscal year.
Making the scholarship needs-based “may be something that has to happen” Sanchez said.
But Sanchez, who helped draft the bill creating the program in 1996, said he would oppose making the scholarship merit-based, using himself as an example of a student who didn’t perform well in high school but went on to graduate from UNM.
“I don’t think a student like me should be deprived,” he said
Sanchez, along with Rep. Rick Miera, D-Albuquerque, and Higher Education Department Secretary José Garcia, were among several speakers at the summit Tuesday in the university’s Student Union Building.
Sunny Liu, vice president of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico, differed from Sanchez’s position.
He said aid allocation should be performance-based, and that leaders should focus on better preparing students for college while they’re still in K-12.
“But if we’re going to invest in students who are not able to succeed and we are setting them up for a disaster, it’s a bad investment,” Liu said. About 75,300 New Mexican students have received the scholarship since it began 16 years ago. The scholarship pays 100 percent of tuition to a public New Mexico school for eight consecutive semesters, as long as students maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA.
But that could change to 60 or 65 percent of tuition if the program cannot find more money, Garcia said.
Lagging lottery ticket sales — 30 percent of which are allocated to the scholarship fund — along with tuition increases, have left the program nearly insolvent.
The fund’s cash balances are shrinking as scholarship costs exceed annual lottery revenue, which isn’t keeping pace with student demand for the scholarships and rising tuition costs
If nothing is done, the Legislative Finance Committee said scholarships could be limited to the $40 million expected from the lottery but that’s less than the $60 million in scholarships awarded this year. The state can lower the amount of the scholarships to less than the full cost of tuition.