Opportunity Scholarship Act passes New Mexico Legislature

Transformational scholarship program to benefit up to 35,000 New Mexicans

SANTA FE, NM – Legislation providing tuition-free college to tens of thousands of New Mexicans has passed the state legislature and will now go to Gov. Lujan Grisham for signature.   

S.B. 140 – The New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday evening with bipartisan support on a vote of 51-17.   

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham applauded the final passage of the legislation, which enables any New Mexican who wants to pursue a higher education to do so. 

“This administration believes in supporting students from cradle to career, and the Opportunity Scholarship provides the resources for every New Mexican who wants to further their education. Not only does this program provide opportunities to build brighter futures, it also helps our state build capacity in high-need fields like teaching, medicine and the trades. This fall, up to 35,000 New Mexicans will go to college for free – that’s a gamechanger for families, communities and businesses around the state. I am grateful to Sen. Stefanics and Rep. Garratt for sponsoring this priority legislation.” 

“Every New Mexican deserves the opportunity to pursue education or career training leading to a brighter future. With the passage of the Opportunity Scholarship Act, we have made history by ensuring New Mexicans have the option to access tuition-free college, whether they are a returning adult learner, a working parent, someone who lost the Lottery Scholarship, or anyone in between,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said. “The Opportunity Scholarship will continue to make transformational change in the lives of New Mexicans and propel our economy toward sustainable growth and success. Together with Gov. Lujan Grisham and fellow New Mexicans, we have ensured that every door is open for students to reach higher.”  

A priority of Gov. Lujan Grisham, the Opportunity Scholarship Act permanently expands the option of tuition-free college to New Mexicans pursuing career training certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees at a New Mexico public or Tribal college or university. It is the first state scholarship program in New Mexico to consider students pursuing career training certificates. 

The General Appropriations Act directs $75 million to the scholarship program, which could support up to 35,000 students beginning this fall, or over half of all undergraduate students in New Mexico. Over 10,000 Opportunity Scholarships have already been awarded to students over the past two years through prior appropriations, but limited funding and restrictive eligibility language in prior years prevented many students from benefitting. 

“Today, we have taken a large step toward improving outcomes for all New Mexicans by investing in their potential and the potential of our entire state. Working hand-in-hand with Governor Lujan Grisham and Secretary Rodriguez, we are making transformative change possible for every family and community,” Senator Liz Stefanics said. 

“I am an adult learner who actually graduated from college by taking six credits per semester, so this bill is very personally important to me. Working together with Governor Lujan Grisham, we have laid a strong foundation in early childhood education, K-12 education, and now, higher education. I am proud to have sponsored this legislation, and I know it will change the lives of thousands of New Mexicans,” Rep. Joy Garratt said.   

Passage of the bill ensures that students attending part time and pursuing undergraduate degrees and certificates remain eligible for the scholarship year after year. The act also creates a non-reverting fund that will help grow and sustain funding into the future.   

Thousands of New Mexicans expressed support for expanding access to higher education, and more than 30 Tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, and community groups submitted letters of support, including the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, New Mexico Voices for Children, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, the Indigenous Youth Council, and 14 Tribal governments.  

The New Mexico Higher Education Department thanks Gov. Lujan Grisham, legislators, partner state agencies, community advocates, leaders of New Mexico colleges and universities, and most importantly, the students of New Mexico whose support made the passage of the Opportunity Scholarship Act possible.   

New Mexicans interested in receiving updates about the Opportunity Scholarship are encouraged to visit www.freecollegenm.org.