NMSU to help with lottery scholarships

November 17, 2013 • State News

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Officials at New Mexico State University are bracing for changes that may come next spring as uncertainties remain about how much tuition lottery scholarships will cover.

NMSU announced this week that it is prepared to cover up to 60 percent of spring tuition if state lawmakers fail to fund a shortfall when the legislative session begins in January.

Bernadette Montoya, NMSU’s vice president for student affairs and enrollment, said the university wanted to ensure the uncertainty wouldn’t be a barrier to enrollment next semester.

“Students are registering for classes without clear direction on how much tuition their scholarship will cover,” she said in a statement issued Thursday. “We anticipate that the lottery scholarship will continue to be a [auth] valuable asset for New Mexican students seeking an education, even if it will not pay the entire tuition bill.”

Some 14,000 students — the majority of them at NMSU and the University of New Mexico — depend on lottery scholarships to pay their tuition. An imbalance between lottery revenues and tuition commitments in recent years has nearly drained the fund.

In 2012, for example, the lottery brought in $41 million in revenue but scholarship commitments totaled $58 million. State higher education officials have said tuition increases at the state’s colleges and universities have not helped.

New Mexico students qualify for a scholarship if they enroll in a public college or university in the state after graduating from high school, attend full time and maintain a 2.5 point grade point average.

New Mexico Voices for Children, a nonprofit advocacy group, has recommended that the state change the scholarship program to provide assistance based on a student’s financial need. The group said such a change could help prevent the program from running short of money in the 2014-15 school year.

In the meantime, NMSU is also waiving payment plan fees for students on the lottery scholarship until the state Higher Education Department announces how much will be funded.

At UNM, officials say they are monitoring the situation closely.

“We are confident that the governor and the Legislature will make decisions that will be in the best interest of our students,” UNM President Bob Frank told the Albuquerque Journal.

On Saturday, student leaders from around the state met to discuss a plan for fixing the fund. Under their proposal, which they plan to send to lawmakers next month, GPA requirements would be raised and the number of consecutive semesters the scholarship would be available would be lowered.

The group also proposed separating any mention of tuition from scholarship payments, the Albuquerque Journal reported. With such a proposal, future grants to the state’s colleges and universities through the scholarship program would depend on the amount of revenue the lottery brings in each year. That amount would be divided equally or proportionately among the various schools, depending on the number of scholarship students and other criteria.

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