Scholarship changes opposed

By Michelle Seeber

PORTALES — A year ago, New Mexico’s House Finance Committee proposed new requirements for the Lottery Success Scholarship that would make it more difficult for college students to obtain dollars for tuition. The plan called for raising the required grade-point average from 2.5 to 3.0.
The committee also recommended the dollars become available to students attending Native American schools and private colleges in New Mexico.
The proposal failed.
But it’s coming up again in January, students who are members of the Associated Students of New Mexico said Friday.
Stuart Ingle, a state senator from Portales, said if the proposition does come up again, he thinks it will fail like it did last year.
“I doubt that it will have any chance of passing,” he said.
Students at Eastern New Mexico University said they are making it their goal to lobby against the passage of anything that would raise the GPA of lottery scholarship recipients from its current 2.5 standard.
In addition, they oppose giving the scholarship money to students who attend private colleges or Native American schools.
“It would lessen the number of students overall who could otherwise receive the scholarship,” said Brian Stein, a 22-year-old senior at ENMU, who also is executive assistant to the student body president. “As it’s set up now, any New Mexico high school student who attends college directly after graduation and has a 2.5 GPA is eligible.”
The scholarship, which is automatic to any student attending a state-funded school of higher learning, as long as it is in New Mexico, is available for eight semesters as long as the 2.5 GPA is maintained.
“Students with higher grades already can get the scholarship, too, for eight semesters,” Stein said.
He said the higher standards would only hurt state-funded colleges and universities by causing a drop in enrollment at a time when tuition costs are rising.
It would prevent some students from receiving a college education, he said.
The Associated Students of New Mexico have a goal to obtain a four- or five-year guarantee that lottery rules won’t change, Stein said.
That’s to protect students currently attending college with the scholarship paying for tuition.
Bob Cornelius, a 24-year-old senior at ENMU who also is the student body president, said if other types of schools are allowed to receive the tuition scholarship, it will drain the available dollars at a faster rate.
He also said enrollment would decrease for state-funded schools.
“If they change the lottery scholarship, some people won’t be able to go to college at all,” he said.