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Editorial: Students do homework on scholarship solvency

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New Mexico’s college students have accomplished in four hours what the Legislature couldn’t in 60 days – an agreed-upon path toward ensuring fiscal sustainability for the lottery scholarship fund.

Unlike the 2013 Legislature, which could only agree on a $10 million raid on the tobacco settlement fund that remains tied up in the courts, student leaders from nine campuses are proposing the state raise the required minimum 2.5 grade point average to 2.75, lower the number of consecutive semesters the scholarship will be available to encourage on-time graduation as well as account for the first uncovered semester, and remove the reference to “tuition” so future payments don’t automatically cover that entire amount.

Now if the 2014 Legislature will only listen.

Lawmakers have been loathe to increase requirements for the scholarship, equating standards with punishment. Yet the students who have quite literally had to make the grade semester after semester are the ones recommending the scholarship set standards that in turn set students up for college success, not just college attendance and college debt.

The student recommendations are in the same vein as a 2010 Legislative Finance Committee analysis that pushed for high school performance standards (GPA, college preparation or class rank); remedial coursework taken at lower-cost institutions and not counting toward the required course load; and stricter eligibility requirements for research institutions and four-year colleges vs. two-year colleges.

The scholarship fund is facing a $27 million shortfall this year. Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, went so far as to tell the student leaders to “be bold and write a bill. … Don’t wait for us. … Force the conversation.”

It is imperative for the future of the scholarship fund that lawmakers ensure that conversation takes place – and that it includes serious consideration of the student leaders and LFC recommendations.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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