Student government leaders from the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology unequivocally urge legislators to cover the Legislative Lottery Scholarship shortfall by allocating $9.7 million from the General Fund to the Lottery Tuition Fund. Since four-year higher education students are not included in the Opportunity Scholarship in its second year of conception as promised by the governor, students will be forced to fall back on the Lottery Scholarship. This makes it more important than ever to address this shortfall.
As the student-body president at the University of New Mexico, I have talked to many students about their priorities and concerns. Our student body reflects society and is often split on how it views societal topics. However, the importance of the Lottery Scholarship and its impact on students’ ability to stay in school is a sentiment shared by everyone. Raven Otero-Symphony, a first-generation student at UNM, said, “College has always been my way out; higher education has always been the way to survive … higher education is going to be (my) survival in the long-run that will break the cycle of generational poverty.” She adds she probably would not be at UNM without the Lottery Scholarship. Another student, Dulce Saldivar, expands “It’s not just important for the student themselves, it is important for their families, their communities, their siblings – it affects all of us”.
The Legislative Lottery Scholarship upon which New Mexican students heavily rely has been facing a steady decline for the past decade. At its inception, it covered 100% of tuition at four-year institutions. This year, the scholarship covered only 66.7% of tuition at UNM after the Legislature allocated $9.7 million from the General Fund during the second session of the 54th Legislature. Lottery proceeds continue to decline, and the Legislative Lottery Tuition Fund is facing the same $9.7 million shortfall from last year’s fund total of $44 million. Without additional support, coverage from the Lottery Scholarship could drop down to as low as 53.5% of tuition at four-year research institutions.
If the Legislature makes the right decision to allocate $9.7 million to the Lottery Tuition Fund, it will not only benefit over 17,000 four-year students at research institutions, but also support over 4,000 students at two-year community colleges and over 2,000 students at four-year and tribal colleges.
Without legislative support of the Lottery Scholarship, four-year institution students may have to make difficult decisions about continuing their education. This could have a ripple effect on communities and companies within New Mexico. As a state, we need to be prepared to staff companies like Amazon, Facebook, and the Theia Group Satellite Company as they set up for business in the Land of Enchantment. We need to take notice of the excellence our state has to offer and groom New Mexicans to be educated and productive members of our local economy. If you would like to join our fight for the Legislative Lottery Scholarship, contact your local legislators today.
This op-ed was also signed by Mathew Madrid, student-body president at the New Mexico State University and Quincy Bradfield, student-body president at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.