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New Mexico senator wants gap year for high school grads on lottery scholarship

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A state senator wants to allow New Mexico high school students the chance to take up to a year-and-a-half off before starting college and still qualify for the Legislative Lottery Scholarship.

Currently, graduates have to immediately enroll in college following high school graduation or they lose the scholarship permanently.

The bill’s sponsor Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, said some students aren’t prepared academically or mentally right after high school.

“We shouldn’t be pushing students into school if they’re not ready,” said Soules, a former academic adviser at New Mexico State University.

He argued students who take the time to prepare for college are more likely to graduate, making the money spent on them more worthwhile.

The bill also calls for an 18 month grace period for those who have earned a GED diploma or were honorably or medically discharged from the military. Soules said he doesn’t know how a gap year would affect the already stressed Lottery Scholarship fund. The scholarship currently covers about 90 percent of a student’s tuition costs, though it used to cover all of a student’s tuition costs.

Since the program started in 1996, lawmakers have changed the eligibility rules, such as requiring students to take 15 credit hours instead of 12 and trimming the scholarship from eight to seven semesters in an attempt to slow the drain on the fund. Students are also required to maintain a grade-point average of at least 2.5.

Many espouse the benefits of the gap year. Here’s a Time story about some of the benefits.
And here’s the original story regarding the dwindling funds in the lottery scholarship coffers in case you missed it.