ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The state's lottery scholarship program may be stretched even more thin because of what didn't happen in this year's legislative session.
That's because at least two bills that would have raised the requirements and eligibility for the program failed before they could make it to Governor Susana Martinez's desk.
What did pass was a $10-million boost to the program as part of a national settlement with tobacco companies. Still, some say that could only be a drop in the bucket because of more money going out than what's being put into the program.
Another cause for funds to be depleted earlier than expected include tuition costs on the rise and more people qualifying for the lottery scholarship.
State Higher Education Department officials say the program is not in trouble, but resources could become tight.
"We may just have to reduce the entire amount of funding if we can't solve that," says Dr. Jose Garcia, Secretary of the New Mexico Higher Education Department. "But right now, we're just reviewing all kinds of different options."
According to the lottery scholarship website, more than 82,000 students have been able to further their education into college thanks to the program.
Some of the bills that would have raised the eligibility requirements for the scholarship included increasing the grade point average from a 2.5 to at least a 2.7, it would have added student testing as well as factoring in family income.
Bill sponsors like State Senator Tim Keller say this may have helped save the program money, but many people are afraid to tamper with a program that's so easy for some to obtain.
"It's been shown already that the program is not sustainable as it stands today and if you put more constraints on it, that's just going to make it run out quicker," says UNM Student Alejandro Mendiaz.
"I think they should keep it the same because things get tough sometimes and when you lose the scholarship, sometimes you have to stop college and that's a hardship that I don't want anybody to go through," adds Sarah Fentiman who is attending UNM on the Lottery Scholarship.
There is a bit of good news in all this because lottery officials say money generated by games is up slightly and that's where the scholarship program gets thirty percent of it's funding from.
However, with temporary monetary fixes from the legislature and the uncertainty of people playing the lottery in New Mexico, some are wondering where will it go from here.
"I wouldn't say that the program is in trouble," adds Dr. Garcia. "It's just simply that something's going to have to happen to make it more solvent."
Legislators also passed a memorial calling for a work group to look at more ways to help the scholarship program survive.
As it stands right now under the current scholarship requirements, eligible students with a 2.5 GPA can get their tuition paid for eight consecutive semesters.
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