Proposed scholarship changes opposed

Michelle Seeber

A year ago, the Finance Committee of the New Mexico House of Representatives proposed new requirements for the state’s Lottery Success Scholarship that would make it more difficult for college students to obtain dollars for tuition by raising the required grade point average from 2.5 to 3.0.
The committee also recommended the dollars become available to students attending Native American schools and private colleges in New Mexico.
Although the proposal failed, it may come up again in January, members of the Associated Students of Eastern New Mexico said Friday.
Stuart Ingle, a state senator from Portales, said if the proposition does come up again, he thinks it will fail like it did last year.
“I doubt that it will have any chance of passing,” he said.
The students at Eastern New Mexico University, however, said they are making it their goal to lobby against the passage of anything that would raise the GPA of lottery scholarship recipients from its current 2.5 standard.
In addition, they oppose giving the scholarship money to students who attend private colleges or Native American schools.
“It would lessen the number of students overall who could otherwise receive the scholarship,” said Brian Stein, a 22-year-old senior at ENMU, who also is executive assistant to the student body president. “As it’s set up now, any New Mexico high school student who attends college directly after graduation and has a 2.5 GPA is eligible.”
The scholarship, which is automatically given to any student attending a state-funded school of higher learning in New Mexico, is available for eight semesters as long as the 2.5 GPA is maintained.
“Students with higher grades already can get the scholarship, too, for eight semesters,” Stein said.
He said it would only hurt state funded colleges and universities by causing a drop in enrollment at a time when tuition costs are rising.
It also would prevent students from receiving a college education, he said.
“If a 2.5 (GPA) student lost his scholarship for a 3.0, then you would lose a student,” Stein said. “And, it would hurt the school’s enrollment.”
The Associated Students’ goal is to obtain a four- or five-year guarantee that lottery rules won’t change, Stein said, and ideally protecting students who are currently attending college with that scholarship.
Bob Cornelius, the student body president, said if other types of schools are allowed to receive the tuition scholarship, it will drain the available dollars at a faster rate.
Cornelius, a senior at ENMU, also said enrollment would decrease for state funded schools.
“If they change the lottery scholarship, some people won’t be able to go to college at all,” he said.
One ENMU student who receives the scholarship is Bob Seyller, a 19-year-old sophomore, who also is resident assistant at Lincoln Hall.
His GPA, he said, is a 2.7.
“I’m hoping it stays there after these finals get through,” he said. “But, you (never) know.”
Seyller enrolls in 15 hours each semester, he said. The minimum requirement to receive the scholarship is 12 hours.
“Economically, it’s easier,” he said of his reason for applying for the scholarship, adding it kept him from attending universities in Kansas, where his father recently moved his manufacturing business.
“It’s not money intended for private schools,” he said. “It’s for state institutions.”
Asked if he would stay in New Mexico if he lost the scholarship, Seyller said he would because he is involved in many activities on campus and has a good job.
“All I can see it doing is hurting people of all classes,” he said.