Rising college tuition and declining state funding for public higher education are driving a student loan crisis in this country.
College tuition in the United States has increased 37% on average in the past 10 years. Tuition at New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico increased an average of 4.5% for the current school year alone. The result: Today’s students are paying the most in history for a college education, and most of us have to borrow all or much of that.
The latest statistics show that 45 million borrowers in the United States owe $1.6 trillion of student loan debt. Here at home, 218,000 New Mexicans are trying to pay back $7 billion they borrowed to attend college. Increasing student debt is affecting the decisions of a new generation of Americans. It impacts decisions such as marriage, purchasing a new home or car, or moving to a neighboring state for a higher-paying job.
New Mexicans find comfort in the Lottery Scholarship. The 30% of gross lottery revenue allocated to the Lottery Scholarship Fund each year allows many New Mexicans to attend colleges in-state, and some are even able to graduate without debt. This scholarship is integral in encouraging our young adults to pursue their education in the Land of Enchantment while fostering a love for our great state.
Over time, the Lottery Scholarship started to cover less and less of tuition, forcing more students to pay out of pocket or take out loans. The gap in this program can hurt the chances of our low-income and minority students, and their opportunity to seize a brighter future. The Lottery Scholarship, and other programs like it, are important to growing the next generation of leaders, innovators and developers of our state.
That is why we support Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham and her team in exploring initiatives like the Opportunity Scholarship to alleviate the challenges of student debt. As students from UNM and NMSU, we are calling on our legislators to work together so we can create these new opportunities. We hope to see thoughtful and sustainable legislation that supports the mission of providing every New Mexico student with an opportunity for a higher education. We ask you to invest in us, New Mexico’s future.