ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The University of New Mexico will require incoming freshman to have a high school grade point average of 3.0 or higher, up from 2.5 GPA, to qualify for its Bridge Scholarship. Critics said the move was done in secret and discriminates against minority students.
The Bridge Scholarship is offered to admitted freshmen their first semester at UNM until the New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship kicks in during the second semester. Under the current rules, students with a 2.5 high school GPA automatically qualify for the Bridge Scholarship. A new plan will go into effect beginning in fall 2014, which will require students to have a 3.0 GPA and a 23 ACT score. The Bridge Scholarship will also increase to $1,500.
UNM will also roll out a new program, called the "Success Grant," which will require a 2.5 high school GPA and will require those students to file for financial aid. Similar to the current Bridge Scholarship, the new grant will be $1,000.
"The goal was to again attract some of the higher performing New Mexicans to come to UNM but also to provide access," said Associate Provost for Curriculum Gregory Heileman.
According to UNM, students with a GPA below 3.0 have a 66.9 percent retention rate and 29.7 percent six-year graduation rate. Those numbers improve for students with a 3.0 GPA or above to an 81.2 percent retention rate and a 50 percent six-year graduation rate.
At a meeting of advocacy groups, legislators and students Wednesday afternoon, UNM officials were grilled on the new changes.
"It's discrimination, it's elitist, it's segregation," said Ralph Arellanes, director of New Mexico's League of United Latin American Citizens.
Arellanes said the move to tighten requirements will mean fewer minority students at UNM.
"This is a very hostile decision, a very hostile policy against the Hispanic community, against the minority community, against at-risk students," Arellanes said.
Opponents also said the deal was done in a back room with no input from the community.
"We can't pick and choose the decisions that we bring the community to the table on," said Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque.
UNM officials admit they need better communication with students and advocacy groups, but said the changes will help students graduate.
"We all want the same thing. We all want students to succeed here," Heileman said.
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