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Friday, December 19, 2014

Scholarship up for debate

UNM to give legislators insight on lottery bill.

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@ChloeHenson5

A coalition of students from different colleges across the state has decided to offer its support to a long-term solution for the Legislative Lottery Scholarship’s solvency issue.

Isaac Romero, president of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico and a member of the work group, said he supports Senate Bill 150 because it would provide a long-term solution to the shortage in funds for the scholarship.

“I think one of my biggest worries is that if nothing happens this session, there’s a good chance that the Legislature will potentially pass another one-time money bill that will continue the lottery scholarship on what it’s currently doing,” he said.

“And this issue will be the same one that we’re talking about next year.”

SB 150 was introduced by Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe.

Jeremy Witte, the governmental affairs director for New Mexico State University, said representatives from his university and others have been working on a solvency proposal for the lottery scholarship since June and decided to support SB 150.

“That is a lottery bill that would increase the eligibility requirements,” he said. “It will increase the GPA requirements to 2.75, it will increase the minimum credit hours to 15 and then it will put a cap on the amount of awards depending on what sector of higher education you go to.”

According to the bill, students attending a research institution such as UNM or NMSU could be awarded a maximum of $2,100 per semester.

Witte said the increase in credit hours has been controversial, but students need to take more than 12 hours to graduate with the scholarship.

“The scholarship only lasts four years,” he said. “And if you take 12 credit hours throughout those four years, you’re not even going to be a junior by the time you stop receiving the lottery scholarship, and that’s when the majority of students drop out. If the state government is paying the majority for your education, we think that there should be some better requirements.”

However, students who are already on the scholarship will continue to be held to the current eligibility requirements and will receive a full-tuition scholarship.

“Current students who have the Lottery Scholarship… they will still get full tuition, they will still only be required to have a 2.5 GPA and they will only need to have 12 credit hours,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re supporting it.”

Witte said he feels confident the bill will pass.

“I think that’s going to be the bill that everybody kind of defaults to,” he said. “There are 112 different legislators, so I assume there are 112 different ideas on how to fix the lottery scholarship. But when it comes to the end, I think this will be the one everyone falls to. It’s a good compromise.”

Two other bills have been presented that deal specifically with the scholarship’s solvency, according to the New Mexico Legislature site.

House Bill 254 would award students scholarship money based on unmet need and would keep the GPA requirement at 2.5. House Bill 263 would keep a uniform award amount linked to the funds available, to be adjusted annually, maintain the 2.5 GPA and award the scholarship for seven semesters.

UNM Day

Some UNM departments will travel to the Roundhouse today to showcase the University and talk to legislators.

Bernadette Jaramillo-Peck, administrative officer for the Parent Association, said UNM Day is an opportunity to show off student organizations and departments.

“It’s a recruitment tool, but it’s also showing the state that UNM is a very vital part of the community,” she said.

A variety of departments will be attending UNM Day, such as the University College, the Graduate and Professional Student Association, ASUNM, the Global Education Office and UNM libraries.
Jaramillo-Peck said students and parents will also get to speak with legislators about issues concerning UNM, such as the lottery scholarship.

“(ASUNM and GPSA) have their own initiatives,” she said. “They’ll bring their group up and talk to legislators. The Parent Association has a group of folks that will be up there as well.”
Romero said he will attend all of UNM Day. He said he also knows several students who have signed up to go.

“If (students) get a chance to talk to legislators, they get to speak on ASUNM’s behalf on… the lottery scholarship, or of the Health Sciences Center, or whatever the topic is,” he said.