Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Lobo The Independent Voice of UNM since 1895
Latest Issue
Read our print edition on Issuu

House passes increase for scholarship funding

Staff and Wire Report

SANTA FE — The House has approved a measure to earmark more state lottery proceeds for a college scholarship program while also helping finance public school technology.

Currently half of state lottery profits go to the scholarship program, and the rest go to school construction and capital improvements.

The scholarships pay 100 percent tuition for New Mexico students who graduate from high school, immediately enroll in college and maintain a 2.5 grade point average.

The bill approved Sunday by the House would make all lottery proceeds available for the college scholarships. But after the tuition awards are covered each year and a 10 percent reserve is set aside, the remaining lottery proceeds would pay for technology such as computers, said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe.

The bill would help shore up the financing of the scholarship program.

Demand for the scholarships and rising tuition is outstripping the financing. The program is projected to have a $9.1 million shortfall by 2003 without additional money or restricting student eligibility or reducing the amount of the scholarships. The shortfall would grow to $20.6 million in 2004.

Varela said the lottery has been averaging about $20 million a year for scholarships and public schools.

Under the measure, he said, the scholarship program would be fully funded through 2007. He also said the bill would provide $11 million for technology projects through 2005.

“What I wanted to do was to keep a balance and allow the scholarships to continue, but to continue to give the children in the public education system some money for technology,” Varela said.

Varela said the Legislature is considering proposals to finance school construction through other sources.

The House unanimously approved the lottery change proposal and sent it to the Senate for consideration.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox

Under a separate bill approved by the Senate last week, colleges and universities would be prohibited from raising tuition for lottery scholarship students.

“This will not solve all the problems, but it will hopefully deliver a message,” said Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, the bill’s sponsor.

Ingle complained that tuition costs have been rising an average of 9 percent a year since the state lottery began funding scholarships.

That has created a problem particularly for students who don’t qualify for the scholarships, supporters of the bill said.

“It’s been a real hardship for a lot of families,” said Sen. Roman Maes, D-Santa Fe.

The lottery scholarships are available to New Mexico residents who go directly from high school to a state college, university or vocational-technical institute and keep a 2.5 grade point average.

About 12,000 students are currently getting the scholarships.

The legislation — which passed on a vote of 30-3 and went to the House — would freeze tuition for the eight consecutive semesters a student would be eligible, at the level it was when he or she qualified.

Sen. Don Kidd, R-Carlsbad, who voted against the bill, said universities are “just on a treadmill” trying to keep up with costs.

“The universities do a better job than any agency of state government in raising their own money,” he said Kidd added that the state then causes problems by underfunding universities.

And Kidd said it’s not tuition, but other costs — food, shelter, clothing, beer and “high-maintenance girlfriends” — that make college so expensive.

Julie Weaks, vice president for business and finance, said during a Board of Regents Finance and Facilities Committee meeting Monday that the University is concerned that the Legislature may force schools to use the lottery scholarship only as a last resort.

“If they didn’t let us use the funding for students that are on the Regents’ Scholarship, we would no longer be able to offer the bridge scholarship that covers the first semester of school the state does not pay for,” she said.

UNM uses the lottery money allocated for students already on other University scholarships to fund other scholarships, a practice legislators are considering ending to preserve lottery funds.

“We’re just watching carefully and hoping language doesn’t get in that would really hurt a lot of students the lottery scholarship helps,” Weaks said.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Daily Lobo