Bill would limit Lottery Scholarship to lower income students only

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SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The topic of how to fix the Lottery Scholarship and which students should get the most money is a controversial one. Now one lawmaker wants to limit the scholarship, making it need-based.

The bill is backed by new Rep. Debbie Sariñana, D-Albuquerque, who happens to be a Manzano High School math teacher.

“It’s needed right now, because we’re low on money,” she said. “The budget is a tough battle right now and this is something that absolutely needs to be done for our kids.”

Rep. Sariñana’s bill would overhaul the eligibility requirements of the Lottery Scholarship so that only students whose family’s annual net income is less than $75,000 would get it.

Those eligible students would get their full tuition paid for, unlike the current scholarship recipients who only get a percentage.

As tuition goes up, more students go to college while lottery sales stay flat. The scholarship fund has been dwindling.

University of New Mexico students that KRQE News 13 talked to had mixed feelings on the idea.

“I get the lottery and it’s nice to have but I would still go to college if I didn’t have the scholarship,” Andrew Baker, a freshman, said. “And if they really need to cut it so that these other students have the same opportunities, I think that’s fair.”

“It’s paying for half of my tuition, so the idea is crazy that they would just do it based off financial need instead of just fairness for everybody,” Kyle Browder, also a freshman, said.

It’s not the first run at this kind of change. Ousted Sen. Michael Sanchez introduced the same bill back in 2015 and it didn’t pass.

A 2015 legislative report linked to Sanchez’s bill estimates more than 15,000 of the students using the scholarship would become ineligible — or 44 percent of all students using it.

The report said the need-based change would save tens of millions of dollars.

There’s also been talk of making it more merit based, like raising the 2.5 GPA requirement.

Opponents claim that would hurt lower income students.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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