New Mexico Lottery and Opportunity Scholarships Could Support Thousands More

A report published by the New Mexico Higher Education Department on the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship and preliminary data for the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship reveal that 15,770 students received tuition and fee assistance via these state-funded programs since Fall 2019. 

“The demonstrated success of the Lottery Scholarship shows that state aid programs are effective in helping students attain a postsecondary degree,” Acting Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said. “However, it is vital that we continue to provide financial aid opportunities that are inclusive of New Mexicans on different educational paths, especially as we seek to rebuild our economy. The Opportunity Scholarship will do exactly that.”  

The report indicates that students attending four-year colleges and universities receive the scholarship at a higher rate than those attending community colleges. This is due in part to the fact that community college students may be more likely to attend part-time, begin their education later in life, or take breaks between semesters. According to the report, students receiving the scholarship for six or more semesters are successful, with 84 percent or more receiving a degree or certificate, and there has been an increase in overall degree productivity from students who receive the scholarship.  

 The New Mexico Higher Education Department is requesting a continuation of funding at $22 million for the upcoming year, which could benefit up to 30,000 students pursuing two-year degrees. The Department also plans to propose a change to the minimum credit hour requirement from 12 credit hours to 6 to accommodate working students and encourage workforce training in support of economic recovery efforts.  

The agency is also proposing $4 million for a pilot project to target four-year degree-seeking students who previously received the Lottery Scholarship, lost their eligibility, but have one or two semesters left to complete their degree. 

While the Lottery Scholarship is funded primarily by revenues from lottery sales, the Opportunity Scholarship was created in 2020 and is funded exclusively by the New Mexico Legislature. 

The Opportunity Scholarship covers tuition and fees for students pursuing two-year degrees and certificates at any Tribal college or public higher education institution in New Mexico, regardless of when they completed high school. It covers up to 100 percent of a student’s tuition and fees, or the amount remaining after other state aid is applied, such as the Lottery Scholarship and Student Incentive Grants are applied. Any federal aid, such as Pell grants, and any private or institutional scholarships can be added last, meaning that students can use the remaining funds for other expenses such as room and board, supplies, transportation, and child care.   

The Lottery Scholarship provides tuition and fee support for high school graduates who enroll in a two-year or four-year program within 16 months of high school graduation. It currently covers between 50 and 100 percent of tuition and fees for eligible students at Tribal colleges or public higher education institutions in the state, saving students between $450 and $2,291 depending on the college or university. Based upon projected enrollment and revenues, the Department has set Lottery Scholarship awards for 2021 at $2,265 for students attending research universities, $1,540 at comprehensive four-year higher education institutions and Tribal colleges, and $574 at community colleges. 

As part of its response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Department has issued guidance to institutions to exercise broad discretion for students impacted by the pandemic. Students may document mitigating circumstances related to the affects that the pandemic may have had on their eligibility for the Lottery Scholarship and other state financial aid programs.   

Since its inception in 1996, the Legislative Lottery Scholarship has provided over $860 million of tuition support to more than 150,000 students from every county in New Mexico.