ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – For the first time in years, the University of New Mexico has seen an increase in enrollment this fall. Enrollment is up by 1.6%, which is 315 more on-campus students than a year ago. It’s also the first time since 2012 that there’s been an increase. UNM says the biggest reason is the new opportunity scholarship. 

“I think the opportunity scholarship had a huge impact in increasing our total numbers as well as diversity because it provides students the opportunity to attend and have tuition and fees covered,” says Vice President for UNM Enrollment, Dan Garcia. 

UNM says the “Lottery Scholarship” and the new “Opportunity Scholarship” now provide free college for most New Mexicans. Lawmakers approved the Opportunity Scholarship during the last legislative session. UNM officials say the scholarship has had a huge impact.  

“If I didn’t have the scholarship, I would’ve had to take out a loan that would’ve probably been higher than what I wanted to pay,” says UNM student Christopher Salazar. 

“Because I’m an international student, most of my tuition is from my parents and yeah, that’s a good way to take off some pressure from my parents,” says UNM student Khoi Nguin. 

According to UNM, the Opportunity Scholarship has also greatly benefited minorities. Out of the students who received the scholarship, more than 6,000 were Hispanic, 900 were American Indian, nearly 500 were Asian American, and more than 233 were African American. 

Students say the scholarship helps them focus on school instead of getting a job to pay for college. “I still have like lab fees, and computer fees, and stuff like that. So it just…it alleviates so much pressure um, knowing like well okay I’m gonna be okay like I’m good and I’ve got this and I don’t have to worry and get a second job,” says UNM student Jordan Hearn.  

According to UNM officials, across all UNM campuses around the state, more than 11,000 students have benefited from the Opportunity Scholarship this fall. New Mexico Highlands has had a 13% increase in new students. That’s their first increase since 2010. NMSU had a nearly 3% increase this semester.