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Saturday, December 20, 2014

UNM student-created bill to be heard in the Legislature this Saturday

news@dailylobo.com

A Lottery Scholarship bill written by ASUNM President Caroline Muraida and UNM Student Regent Jacob Wellman will be heard in the House Education Committee on Saturday at 8 a.m.

House Bill 586, co-sponsored by Rep. James E. Smith (R-Sandia Park) and Sen. Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque), would turn the Lottery Scholarship into a need-based award.

This means the bill would fund a student based on how much his or her family makes. Students from families with combined incomes above $100,000 would get 70 percent of a tuition award, students from families with combined incomes between $54,000 and $100,000 would get 85 percent of a tuition award and students from families with combined incomes under $54,000 would receive the full tuition award.

The bill states the Higher Education Department would determine whether the tuition awards would pay for all or only part of tuition, depending on the how much money is available in the Lottery Scholarship as provided by the Legislature.

The minimum GPA to receive any Lottery Scholarship awards would be raised from 2.5 to 2.7, and current students would be grandfathered in.

“As far as Lottery Scholarship solvency proposals go, I think that this is the best one on the table,” said Matt Fleischer, ASUNM deputy chief of staff. “It certainly is going to be controversial, but everyone still gets a piece; a smaller one, but they still get a piece.”

According to the New Mexico Higher Education Department’s annual report for 2010, 61,251 students have received the scholarship since its inception in 1996. Of the total recipients, 25,430 have graduated, a 41.5 percent average graduation rate.

“A major concern of ours was making sure that students who began their degrees with the scholarship will continue to receive it,” Muraida said. “We need to keep that promise we made to them.”

The bill has been in development since November when ASUNM held a town hall for students featuring state legislators and UNM officials to gather input from all angles on what saving the Lottery Scholarship would require.

“We didn’t just talk to legislators, we conducted student surveys and gathered their feedback on what they felt was important and needed to be addressed first,” Wellman said. “I do hope that this bill does well because a major part of our plan came directly from students.”

Muraida and Wellman both mentioned that similar programs in other states were consulted for their approaches to awarding funds to students.

According to a report by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, seven other states, all in the South, have lottery scholarship programs: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. New Mexico’s lottery program, founded in 1996, was the second one established in the nation, following Georgia’s, which was established in 1993.

New Mexico is the only state that doesn’t have requirements beyond a minimum GPA. The other states’ programs have ACT/SAT score requirements and some have community service requirements and core high school curriculum requirements.

In addition, New Mexico is the only state that awards full tuition to every eligible student. Other states, such as Arkansas and West Virginia, award flat amounts. Alternatively, Florida pays awards on a per-credit basis.

Also, New Mexico and Arkansas have the lowest GPA requirement for renewal: 2.5. Georgia and South Carolina require a 3.0 for renewal. Florida scales awards based on a GPA range from 2.75-3.0 and Kentucky requires a 3.0 for a full award and a 2.5 for a half award.

New Mexico and Arkansas are the only states that require students to enter into college immediately after graduation in order to receive the scholarship. Georgia and South Carolina stipulate no time limits and the other four states’ limits range from 16 months to five years after graduation.

Finally, New Mexico is the only state that doesn’t fund remedial courses or summer courses. Tennessee, West Virginia and Florida fund both, and the remaining states fund either one of the two types.