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UNM: Lottery fund likely to cover 90% of tuition

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

This coming fall, the more recent lottery scholarship students at the University of New Mexico are likely to see close to 90 percent of their tuition taken care of, a figure that will probably apply to other public schools of higher learning in the state, as well.

Terry Babbitt, UNM’s associate vice president for enrollment management, made the projection to the Journal on Thursday during a discussion of the recently revised Legislative Lottery Scholarship statute.

Babbitt questioned an assertion attributed to a Central New Mexico Community College representative a day earlier that the scholarship fund would cover 100 percent of CNM students’ tuition. Until June 1, when final enrollment, tuition and revenue figures are in, no one can say with certainty precisely what percentage of tuition will be covered by the lottery scholarship, Babbitt said.

“Right now, everything we have to go on are projections,” he said. “There are a lot of unknowns there, but the percentages will be high.”

Under the revised law, SB 347, high school and college students are categorized as either Legacy or non-Legacy. Legacy denotes those students who have completed three consecutive semesters under the lottery scholarship, most likely those who started college in 2012 or earlier. For them, as long as they maintain eligibility, the scholarship will not change and could continue for up to eight semesters.

The non-Legacy group includes both high school and college students – newer potential lottery scholarship recipients – and distinctions are made between those attending or planning to attend two- or four-year higher education institutions.

UNM’s current projections are supported by a Legislative Finance Committee cost analysis of the bill signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez to fix the faltering scholarship fund. The LFC’s Fiscal Impact Report on SB 347 indicates that 86 percent of tuition will be covered for newer students in fiscal year 2015; 87 percent in fiscal year 2016; and 90.5 percent in 2017.

The estimates are based on expected revenue, tuition increases, number of eligible students and required fund balances.

Representatives of UNM, CNM and Albuquerque Public Schools held a “collaborative” meeting Wednesday to pave the way toward implementing the revised law. Since its creation 19 years ago, the lottery scholarship traditionally paid full tuition and even ran a surplus to be banked as a reserve for future years. In recent years, however, the scholarship fund has grown increasingly insolvent due to rising tuition and enrollment rates, as well as stagnant lottery ticket sales, all of which led to this year’s statutory revision.

All lottery scholarship recipients will still be required to maintain a GPA of at least 2.5, C-plus. But non-Legacy students attending four-year public universities will have to successfully complete 15 credit units per semester – up from 12 – to keep the scholarship. The scholarship will end after seven semesters.

In contrast, the requirement for students at two-year colleges remains at 12 credit units per semester.

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