For Wagon Mound High School senior Araya Portillo, the cost of college is out of reach.

Her father isn’t in her life and her mother doesn’t work.

Now that New Mexico Highlands University is offering full, four-year scholarships to local 2022 graduates, Portillo is considering applying.

“You usually don’t get this option,” said the 18-year-old, who earns A’s and B’s. 

Highlands is offering full tuition, room and board to seniors from eight area high schools.

So far, West Las Vegas and Santa Rosa Consolidated school districts, and Santa Fe Schools have agreed to partner with Highlands for the one-year program.

NMHU, which has an enrollment of 2,750, is waiting to hear from Las Vegas City and Wagon Mound public school districts, Mora and Pecos Independent school districts, and Santa Fe Indian School.

On Wednesday, Las Vegas City Schools Superintendent Larryssa Archuleta said the district has a verbal agreement to participate.

“I am very grateful that Highlands has offered this opportunity to our local students,” Archuleta said. “Many of our students are still first-generation (college students) and this will open a lot of doors.”

Mora Independent School Superintendent Marvin MacAuley has yet to get the details about the program.

“I will reach out to them and see what we have to do,” MacAuley said. “I think the more accessible we allow secondary education, the more beneficial.”

Wagon Mound Superintendent Anita Romero said she plans to look into the program for the school’s three seniors. 

 “I think it’s a great opportunity,” Romero said.

Hailey Lucero agrees.

The Wagon Mound senior plans to study nursing at Luna Community College, where full-time, in-state tuition is $516 a semester. Lucero said she’s amazed at the Highlands offer.

“That might be something I would consider,” said the 17-year-old, who holds a 3.9 grade-point average.

Juniors and seniors with at least a 3.0 grade-point average at the end of their junior year can apply. The deadline is Dec. 31.

The scholarships valued at $15,000 annually cover tuition, room and board, and will allow recipients to have on-campus jobs, which at the current minimum wage, pay about $6,800 a year.

Highlands is partnering with the school districts because it’s believed it will make it more convenient for students to apply.

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