NM governor announces plan to make college free for state residents

Stock image of a convocation

The new program administered by the New Mexico Higher Education Department works along with the existing state and federal scholarship and grant infrastructure and will help 55,000 students in 29 institutions of higher education across the state for the 2020 semester. But Grisham is positive the program, called the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship, will have the support of lawmakers.

"In the short term, we'll see better enrollment, better student success", the governor added. 'In the long run, we'll see improved economic growth, improved outcomes for New Mexican workers and families and parents'. "It means a better trained and better compensated workforce".

New Mexico has traditionally been among the poorest states in the country. Notably, it is estimated to cost between twenty-five and thirty-five million dollars (US$25-35).

"It is money with a high ROI", she said, referring to a return on investment.

Nationwide, more than 20 states already cover tuition at two-year community colleges.

It would cover the fees not paid for by federal grants or the state's Lottery Scholarship, which typically leaves between 25% and 40% of college still to be paid for, according to the governor's office. But there are household income requirements and other rules, including that recipients live and work in NY for several years after graduating.

New Mexico's plan will not give money to students right away. And some experts wonder if the lack of program regulations is one of its flaws.


"We are excited about what today's announcement means for students and their families as well as the future of higher education in New Mexico". This coverage is available to all residents, regardless of income but it must be approved by the state legislature. The state plans to offset the tuition costs from its oil production revenues.

To Del Pilar, that is a problem. "That's what these free college programs many people hope will at least put out a signal that college is affordable, it's valuable and everyone has a shot at it". The scholarship would not cover books or housing.

"Students show up to community colleges believing that they are going to get ... free college".

More states, like Pennsylvania, should consider this approach to higher education. "We are pivoting to a robust reinvestment in higher learning - specifically and directly in our students".

"College debts are just soaring", Mangan says.

Back at CNM, Winograd explained that her school has not raised student fees when tuition was decreased or was held steady in the past. Modern oil exploration and drilling techniques have unlocked enormous reserves in the Permian Basin that straddles parts of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

"But what happened is you enrolled a bunch of people that were not academically prepared for higher education yet and, as it turned out, the attrition rate was phenomenal", Smith said. "We're now seeing a moment that they're talking about doing something that will have enormous benefit, especially to students at community colleges".

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