The Legislative Lottery Scholarship is effective at getting students through college, a new study has found.

According to a UNM study conducted by the Office of Enrollment Management, 62 percent of New Mexico high school graduates who receive the scholarship graduate in six years, compared to 10 percent of those who graduate in the same time period who have not received the scholarship.

The study also found that 56 percent of students who are eligible for Pell Grants and receive the scholarship graduate in six years.

On the other hand, 11 percent of Pell-eligible students who do not receive the scholarship graduate in the same time period.

“The study illustrates that students with financial needs and who receive the lottery scholarship graduate at much higher numbers than those who do not receive it,” said UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah. “The results validate other studies showing that many of our students do not succeed due to financial reasons.”

The study was conducted among 2,000 freshmen who started at UNM in the 2007-2008 academic year, according to a press release on UNM Today.

Abdallah said the office completed the study about a month ago. He said the University chose to use the 2007 freshmen cohort as a foundation for the University 2013 graduation rates.

The lottery helps students academically because it relieves students of crippling financial stress, Abdallah said.

“The simplest answer is that it probably allows them to focus on their studies rather than having to get a job, or more than one,” he said.

UNM freshman Iris Risvik, who studies psychology, said she agrees with the provost. Risvik, who receives the scholarship, said that despite financial hardships, she is able to attend UNM without having to get a job.

”Without it I wouldn’t really be able to go here,” she said. “It helps me in my studies because it helps me focus more on my classes and less on how I’m going to pay for school. I have more time to study instead of working.”

Risvik said although she would have taken a different approach to the scholarship’s solvency issue, she is ultimately glad that the scholarship will not cease to exist at the end of this fiscal year.

“I would have liked it better if they raised the GPA,” she said. “I’ll still have it for that time, at least. It would be nice to keep having (the scholarship) for other people.”

Last week, state legislators passed Senate Bill 347, which raised the credit-hour requirement of the lottery from 12 to 15 credit hours while maintaining the GPA requirement at 2.5. The bill will shore up the scholarship with money from the state general fund this fiscal year, and will use funds from the state liquor excise tax in subsequent years.

Abdallah said the change in the scholarship requirements will help students graduate even faster.

“Our own efforts to make the minimum required hours for graduation equal to 120, in conjunction with 15 hours per semester and the lottery scholarship, complement each other to allow students to graduate in four years,” he said. “There are of course some students who are not able to do so for a variety of reasons, but I believe that under the solvency limitation of the lottery scholarship, going to 15 credits is a wise strategy.”

Abdallah said the University will continue to advocate for the scholarship in the state Legislature in the following years. But he said that as demand for higher education in New Mexico increases, there will be higher demand for the scholarship in the future.

This is why preserving the scholarship is important, he said.
“One only needs to look at the college enrollment prior to having the lottery with what happened since to see that the lottery has opened opportunities for college access to many more students,” he said. “The challenge to the educational institutions is to make sure that students succeed in graduating from college.”

Abdallah said he is optimistic that the Legislature will find a long-term solution in the coming years.

“The lottery scholarship has been one of the most successful legislations in state history,” he said. “I am confident that a combination of new funds, limited awards amounts, as well as different eligibility criteria, will eventually be agreed upon for a long-term solution.”