Resolution 9F, which passed unanimously at ASUNM’s final meeting of the semester last Wednesday, opposed the possible dip in percentage of lottery profits that benefit students across the state.
Sen. Gabriela Eldredge, who sponsored the legislation, called Barden’s proposal unfair. She said she opposed more money potentially going to overhead.
“It’s a few people getting a large amount of money that could be helping out a lot of people in education,” Eldredge said.
Eldredge said that the resolution does not advocate for a higher percentage going toward the scholarship, but that the amount remains consistent.
“Basically, our legislation was saying that we stand with the 30 percent — we don’t want it lowered,” Eldredge said. “The idea was to bring it to the capitol’s attention, so that they realize we are concerned about it.”
The resolution states that in the 2012-2013 school year, almost 70 percent of students in research universities throughout the state were aided by the lottery scholarship.
Barden said he commended ASUNM for being involved with the issue. However, he regretted that there was confusion surrounding his motivations. Barden opined that a lower percentage would help New Mexico students in the long run.
“Students receive actual dollars for scholarships, not percentages,” Barden said. “As an example, does 30 percent of $100 million generate more scholarship money than 25 percent of $150 million? The scholarship fund could stand to gain an additional $12.5 million through more robust sales if the mandate were to be abolished.”
Barden’s plan is to increase the amount of money that goes towards prizes and further promoting the lottery. If more people play, more money would potentially go toward education.
That seems to be a big “if” for UNM’s student governing body.
“By increasing the percentage of money toward prizes and promotions, you have the opportunity to increase sales, and therefore potentially increase what goes toward education,” Sen. Alex Herring said. “It could work — more money could end up going toward education — but it also couldn’t.”
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Barden said that his goal is to modify the mandates in response to current trends of the lottery in New Mexico.
“Prizes push up profits, and the 30-percent mandate has stopped the lottery from offering games that players want to play, which in turn has held back sales growth and scholarship money,” Barden said.
Since the lottery’s inception in 1996 until 2007, 23.4 percent of lottery profits went to the scholarship that thousands of New Mexico students rely on each year.
In 2007, the Legislature mandated that, based on a study that outlined the importance of the lottery to New Mexico students, at least 27 percent of profits go toward the scholarship. That number rose to its current minimum of 30 percent in 2009.
Due to rising tuition rates in recent years, state legislators have been pressured to amend the lottery scholarship in ways that would benefit everyone. The issue will almost certainly arise again when the legislature convenes early next year. Barden said he plans to talk to lawmakers at that time.
Herring brought up the possibility that Barden would benefit from the proposed changes.
“8.4 percent of lottery profits go to those who run the lottery, Barden himself included,” Herring said. “Lowering the 30 percent that currently is allocated toward education might increase that amount, meaning Barden himself could end up with a fatter wallet.”
During discussion of the resolution at ASUNM’s meeting, Herring said that Barden’s reasoning for lowering the amount that goes toward scholarships is a gamble.
Sen. Victoria Pryor said she agreed with Herring. Attention should be placed on students currently enrolled, Pryor said.
“It’s our job to responsibly maintain this scholarship for our students. While there is the potential, I don’t think it is responsible,” she said. “I don’t think the lottery is at a stable enough place where we can make that gamble.”
David Lynch is a staff reporter at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.