Words by Smiley Team
What has long been one of the United States' most expansive college tuition programs has had another expansion late in 2021.
“For over a quarter of a century, New Mexico has been a national leader in providing free college to its residents," Gov. Lujan Grisham said at a ceremony at Western New Mexico University in Silver City.
"A fully funded Opportunity Scholarship opens the door for every New Mexican to reach higher, strengthening our economy, our families, and our communities. Signing this legislation sends a clear message to New Mexicans that we believe in them and the contributions they will make for their families and the future of our great state.”
New Mexico already had a program backed by the state’s lottery, known as the Lottery Scholarship, that provided free tuition to two and four-year colleges to recent graduates of local high schools given that they pay the first semester and keep a 2.5 GPA.
The expansion, called the Opportunity Scholarship, would now cover that first semester and expand tuition coverage to returning students or older individuals. This is meant to cover those that either didn’t finish college or elected to forgo college after high school.
“With the Opportunity Scholarship Act, New Mexico has made history and set a national example of how states can break down barriers for students everywhere,” Higher Education Department Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said in a press release.
Currently, the New Mexico legislature approved a one-time $75 million payment. The program will cover at least 35,000 college students in New Mexico or nearly half of all undergraduates in the state and may expand further if the state can fund the program past its first year.
Already over 10,000 Opportunity Scholarships have been handed out to students based on prior applications and eligibility.
“Today, we have taken a large step toward improving outcomes for all New Mexicans by investing in their potential and the potential of our entire state. Working hand in hand with Governor Lujan Grisham and Secretary Rodriguez, we are making transformative change possible for every family and community,” Sen. Liz Stefanics said in a press release.
All students have to do to apply for the scholarship is enroll in a New Mexico public college or university this fall and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA application will be counted as an application to the Opportunity Scholarship.
DONATE: Equal Opportunity Schools is a nonprofit in the US that supports education for low-income students.
SUPPORT: EdTrust seeks educational justice for all students, especially low-income students and students of color.