ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - It's no secret the lottery scholarship is running out of money, but what's the solution?
Do you raise the standards so only the better students get the money? Or do you cut out the wealthier students?
Now there's new plan floating around to tap public lands so no one would lose their scholarships.
Even the people who came up with the idea admit it has the ring of sounds too good to be true. But they say the longer they look at it the better it appears.
This fall at colleges and universities across new Mexico more than 13,000 students have all their tuition paid for by lottery tickets.
But depending on who you ask, the fund will be anywhere from $10 million to $30 million short this year.
"It's a very difficult political issue," Sen. Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque, told KRQE news 13. "No one wants to be the one to give the bad news to anyone. So it's easy to just say 'Why hasn't the Legislature done something?'"
Payne and other lawmakers are struggling to determine just who gets a scholarship.
The University of New Mexico says lottery-scholarship students are generally more successful with about six in 10 graduating within six years. But that means 40 percent don't.
Gov. Susana Martinez said she's open to tightening standards on who gets lottery scholarships.
"You should be able to perform in school," Martinez said. "You should be able to reach a certain grade point average, or you should be able to show that there's a need."
For now the specifics have bogged down the process, and with no new money to bolster lottery cash flow unused federal land suddenly is on the table.
"We might be able to use, if we're able to get those lands, the revenues from those lands to be able add to the amounts for the lottery scholarship," Senate Majority Floor Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said.
The ideas being explored by the State Land Office and would help college students across the state if lawmakers could agree on just how to spend any new money.
"We can earmark the money not only for the lottery scholarship but early childhood education and maybe for renewable energy," Sanchez added.
Convincing the feds to give the state land would take time and require another Band Aid fix for the lottery scholarship fund.
This year the state used $10 million in money from a settlement with tobacco companies to for pay tuition.
The State Land Office thinks it could generate $50-$60 million a year from the land the feds have identified as unwanted.
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