The state scholarship that aids more than 25,000 students annually saw a 30 percent decrease in funds this week.
The New Mexico Higher Education Department announced Wednesday morning that the state’s legislative lottery scholarship will only cover 60 percent of students’ tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year — falling from 90 percent coverage in the 2015-2016 year and 100 percent as recently as 2014.
The decrease in funds is reflected by an increase in tuition costs and a decrease in revenue for New Mexico higher education institutions — as well as overall dwindling scholarship funds.
The New Mexico Lottery scholarship — which is required to allot 30 percent of its revenue to the legislative scholarship — has less to contribute this year, as transfers have fallen by $7.6 million.
The liquor excise tax revenue that was approved by state leaders to subsidize the scholarship program for two years will dry up this summer, leaving students with a higher bill.
Of the 26,000 students the scholarship benefits, UNM has the highest number of recipients, who, according to early estimates, could see out-of-pocket costs rise $1,600 annually.
“ASUNM is extremely disheartened that the state has decided once again to place the financial burden squarely on the shoulders of its students,” Noah Brooks, president of the Associated Students of UNM, said. “All across the state, students and their families are going to feel a huge financial burden because the New Mexico Government chose not to act.”
“So many thousands of students rely on the lottery scholarship,” Brooks said in an interview with the Albuquerque Journal.
Earlier this month, Brooks sent an email to all UNM students asking them to contact their state representatives and request that they “keep the hardworking students of New Mexico in mind during the special session.”
The special session commenced May 24 and adjourned sine die on May 30.
“In my open letter, I urged lawmakers to invest in the future of New Mexico by making higher education solvent,” he said. “It is unfortunate that they failed to listen.”
In the letter, Brooks expressed his concern to lawmakers that the financial implications of the “failure to preserve the scholarship” would have a negative effect on graduation rates.
“About one-thrid of students at the University of New Mexico receive the Legislative Lottery Scholarship,” he said. “This means that those students are going to see the financial burden being placed on them once again. Ultimately, this is going to be negative for higher education, a place where the state should be focused on growing future leaders.”
ASUNM offers several scholarships to UNM students, which they hope will help students bear the burden of increased tuition.
“Every year, ASUNM works hard to try and get the New Mexico Legislature to make our students a priority, and to invest in the future of not only our students, but also in the future of New Mexico,” Brooks said. “Over the next year, finding true solvency for the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship will remain a top priority for ASUNM. We hope to work with several entities and people to try and ensure that everything that can be done for our students, is being done.”
UNM’s tuition and fees for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year are pending UNM Regents’ approval.
In a written statement to the Journal, Interim President Chaouki Abdallah said, “This is definitely a big, but not unexpected, change that will significantly impact some of our students. While we would be making every effort to provide those students with the most need all the financial assistance we can muster, we remain convinced that 60 percent support from the Lottery scholarship for the quality of education provided by UNM is a great opportunity.”
To qualify for the lottery scholarship, students must be New Mexico high school graduates who have taken 15 credit hours and maintained a 2.5 grade point average at an approved state institution by the end of their first semester.
The lottery scholarship will now extend to students who take a “gap year” between high school and college.
Celia Raney is the news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Celia_Raney.