NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Lawmakers in the Roundhouse are pushing to give high school dropouts more time to get their diplomas. They also want to let more schools become “dropout recovery schools” to help get more students to graduation.

Representative Christine Trujillo (D-Albuquerque) said New Mexico’s graduation rate has hovered between 75% and 80% since 2016. According to the Public Education Department’s latest report on non-graduates in 2019, almost 3,000 students dropped out of school.

“The whole point is to try to support the schools that are already doing this work in our state while also incentivizing more schools to raise their hand and say, ‘we would like to have a specific program that’s going to re-engage and recruit students who left high school without a diploma before they reach the age of 22,’ which is our age cap in the current statute,” said one expert witness speaking on behalf of this bill.

House Bill 448 does multiple things. They are listed below.

  • It allows schools to get funding for students who are already enrolled in a dropout recovery program even after they turn 22 if they are enrolled before that birthday.
  • It allows schools that offer these programs to enroll students year-round to make it more accessible.
  • It creates a statewide list of dropouts that schools could use to try to recruit kids back to school.

Concerns were raised about adults being put in classes with younger students in committee, but experts said these programs would be separate.

“This would be a change in our mentality around dropouts to say it’s all of our responsibility to deal with these students, and we need to be able to recruit students statewide to dropout recovery programs regardless of geography,” the expert witness said.

A financial review said it cost more than $11,000 to put one student who dropped out back through school in 2023. It said, if every student who dropped out in the state went back to school, this could cost the state $63 million.

The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously. It now heads to House Appropriations and Finance.

If this bill is signed into law, it would take effect in July of 2024. Experts stated this would give them time to figure out the rules around the schools and identify just how many students they might be able to bring in.