Opportunity Scholarship Act Passed by State Legislature

How will the new legislation help NM college students?


Eddie Moore for the Albuquerque Journal

State Roundhouse in Santa Fe

On March 4, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Opportunity Scholarship Act. It provides $75 million in funding to help up to 35,000 students per year across New Mexico. The scholarship covers tuition, fees, and other necessities for students pursuing an undergraduate degree at New Mexico state colleges. Along with the existing Legislative Lottery scholarship, this is another way the state is working to educate more people and keep them in the state after they attain their degree.
While both scholarships are available to New Mexicans, there are key differences between them. The Lottery Scholarship can help high school graduates who subsequently enroll at a public college within 16 months of graduation from high school. They must earn 12 or 15 credit hours, depending on where they go to college, and maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA every semester. The scholarship covers only the tuition.
In comparison, the Opportunity Scholarship, sponsored by local legislators Sen. Liz Stefanics (D-39) and Rep. Joy Garratt (D-29), allows any New Mexican resident who plans to enroll at an in-state public college and earn at least 6 credit hours toward an undergraduate degree or training certificate to be eligible for the aid. They must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 throughout every semester of college and earn more than 18 credit hours per semester in order to retain eligibility. Students will have to reassess their standing for the scholarship through the financial aid office of their college each semester. In contrast to the lottery scholarship, the Opportunity Scholarship covers 100% tuition as well as fees, like living and transportation expenses, money for required course materials, and other associated costs at any New Mexico institution. This aid aims to help people who didn’t have the chance to finish their education or start college after high school.

The Opportunity Scholarship will help many achieve their dreams. It is a strong addition to the funding of education within the state. Mr. Jacoby, college guidance counselor, says, “The idea of it would be useful to an Academy student.” It will help Academy students who apply within the state save roughly $16,000. Substantial financial differences will certainly make students and New Mexico residents consider continuing their education in-state. The bill will most definitely bring more hope to New Mexican residents to pursue higher education.
Some advice Mr. Jacoby offers to Academy students is, “We still don’t know everything about this new act and it sounds great, but we need to know more about it. However, as college guidance counselors, our main priority is to help students examine a range of possibilities and find the place that best meets their needs.”