Lawmakers look at shoring up lottery scholarship program

Posted at: 02/15/2013 5:18 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

State lawmakers are looking at a handful of measures aimed at keeping the state's lottery scholarship program from going broke.

One bill scheduled for a committee hearing this weekend would funnel more money into the college scholarships, mostly from the state's tobacco settlement fund. There are other proposals to limit the pool of eligible students by establishing family income restrictions, or by academic merit requirements. One plan would reduce the scholarship amounts for students at four year colleges.

Lottery sales are down, however, and tuition costs keep going up, with more and more students seeking higher education. Analysts say the scholarship fund will be $5million in the red by July.

Right now the University of New Mexico has almost 9,000 students on the lottery scholarships and if the money runs out they'll be left high and dry. One of them is Maya Anthony of Taos, who is majoring in Environmental Planning - thanks to her lottery scholarship.

" I would probably have started out at a much smaller school, probably closer to home - and maybe I would have worked my way here but it would have all been up in the air."

Masood Mirca is a high school senior from Albuquerque who has been accepted to attend UNM next year. He's counting on his lottery scholarship.

" It waived the tuition and that's a big fee," Mirca said. " That makes UNM a really good option for students in New mexico and it's one of the reasons I decided to go here next year."

The scholarships are for tuition at New Mexico's public universities and colleges. New Mexico high school graduates are eligible, if they are fulltime students keeping a grade point average of at least 2.5. The scholarships are good for 8 consecutive semesters of school - four years' worth. More than 75,000 New Mexico kids have attended college on the lottery scholarships.