The Lottery Scholarship may be saved after all.
The Commission on Higher Education on Wednesday approved taking some of the excess balance from the lottery fund to commit it to need-based financial aid for students.
Eastern New Mexico University President Steve Gamble said the commission agreed during a meeting Wednesday to supply $2 million of its excess reserves for need-based financial aid. There are about $50 million in reserves, Gamble said.
The $2 million will only be used next year.
CHE’s proposal will next go through the committee process and later to the House for a vote.
As it stands now, the money that the commission will use to provide need-based financial aid won’t impact revenues for the lottery scholarship and won’t change any criteria of the scholarship.
The commission’s move comes on the heels of a proposal from Gov. Bill Richardson that would take funds from the scholarship and shift them toward helping need-based students.
University officials and students had issue with the governor’s proposal. Many were afraid taking money away from the scholarship could negatively impact university enrollment figures and the cost of higher education for students. This week, hundreds of ENMU students have signed a petition that discourages lawmakers from making any changes to the scholarship.
“This means that there will be $2 million more that will be devoted to students who show that they come from low-income families,” Gamble said. “I’m supportive anytime that we can put more money in students’ hands.”
CHE and university officials are plenty aware of the governor’s desire to make changes to the scholarship.
“CHE knew that the governor wanted some things done,” Gamble said.
Gamble wouldn’t say how other officials felt after leaving the meeting.
How the proposal will be perceived by lawmakers is a guessing game. There have been several other pitches on how to improve the scholarship, including letting students who don’t attend college for 18 months after they graduate form high school retain their eligibility to receive the scholarship.
Other bills involving Eastern
• Almost $70,000 is being sought to purchase and install graphic arts technology and equipment for ENMU.
• 11 a.m. — District 17 Day press conference and lunches for kids,
• 12:30 p.m. — Women Legislators’ Luncheon, Pink Adobe
• 6-8 p.m. — Silver City-Grant County Prospectors and Deming Spikes Reception, El Dorado Hotel
• 6 p.m. — Xcel Energy/PNM/EPE/TNP Speaker’s Dinner, El Dorado
• 6 p.m. — Southeastern New Mexico Cooperatives Legislative Reception, Inn at Loretto
• 5:30 p.m. — New Mexico State WICHE Commissioners Legislative Reception, Gerald Peters Gallery
• 6 p.m. — Agricultural Community Ag Fest, Sweeney Convention Center
For more information on legislative issues go online to www.state.nm.us
David Arkin covers the Legislature for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He is a former Freedom reporter and editor. He can be reached at Davidarkin111@yahoo.com.