House OKs bill to cut university awards by at least 50 percent
Lottery scholarships for New Mexico’s university students could be cut in half under a bill approved Friday by the state House of Representatives.
The measure carried 46-17 and moves next to the state Senate for consideration.
Rep. James White, the bill’s sponsor, said reducing the amounts of some lottery scholarships was necessary to keep the program solvent.
Students at two-year colleges would continue to receive full tuition through their lottery scholarships. But those at four-year schools would see their funding cut by 50 percent or more.
White, right, said the logic behind the bill was simple. Two-year colleges are less costly, so the scholarship program can help three students for the cost of each one at a four-year school.
Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, was among those who voted against the bill.
She said she understood the need for savings, but worried that White’s bill would be counterproductive.
“It discourages New Mexico students from attending four-year universities,” said Stewart, right.
Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, said university students were the constituents in this issue, but they were ignored.
A former student body president at New Mexico State University, McCamley said students 12 years ago flagged the likelihood of lottery scholarship funds being depleted. They should have had a voice at the table this time, he said.
An analysis of White’s bill by the legislative staff found that expenses for lottery scholarships had increased from $47.2 million in 2010 to $58.2 million last year.
In White’s bill, students at UNM, New Mexico Tech and New Mexico State University could see scholarship reductions of about $2,400 a year. Tuition at all three universities runs approximately $4,800 a year.
The percentage cut at Western New Mexico University could be even higher. Tuition at Western is about $3,800 a year. White’s bill would limit lottery scholarships to $1,400 annually.
Other regional universities are less expensive than Western, but their scholarships also would be cut to $1,400 a year.
White, though, said the scholarship cutbacks for university students may not be so severe. He said he hoped that supplemental lottery funding could add another $1,000 a year to a student’s scholarship.
In addition, White said, students could seek other scholarships that generally have not been pursued because of an almost automatic reliance on the lottery program.