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Bill would expand scholarship eligibility

SANTA FE — A bill to expand student eligibility for the state’s tuition lottery scholarship easily passed the House on Monday.

The 49-13 vote to advance House Bill 27 comes days after the chamber broadly backed a bill that would cut some scholarships to ensure the struggling fund remains solvent.

House Bill 27, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, would allow students to qualify for a lottery scholarship to attend a community college for up to two years after graduation from high school or a GED program. Current law requires students to enroll in college the semester after finishing high school or a GED program to qualify for the full-tuition scholarship.

“This legislation would give the student extra time to prepare for college and still be eligible for a lottery scholarship,” Stapleton said in a statement.

The bill is estimated to increase annual lottery fund expenditures by nearly $6 million per year, according to a financial analysis. In 2012, the lottery fund paid out more than $58 million in scholarships while receiving only $41 million in revenues.

Last Friday, the chamber passed House Bill 309, an effort to keep the struggling lottery fund in the black.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim White, R-Albuquerque, would reduce lottery scholarships for eligible students attending four-year colleges while continuing to pay full tuition only for community colleges. Under that bill, a University of New Mexico student would be required to pay as much as $3,600 in tuition out of pocket. Those cuts are estimated to save the lottery fund about $20 million per year by 2015, according to an analysis.
— This article appeared on page A3 of the Albuquerque Journal