Students mobilize to save lottery scholarships

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Things are not looking good for the state's lottery-funded scholarship program. Lottery sales are dropping while those utilizing the scholarship program are on the rise.

Now, students are trying to come up with solutions before it's too late.

University of New Mexico students want to take the lead in creating legislation to assure money for Legislative Lottery Scholarship program is available long after they've graduated.

The New Mexico Lottery sold $133.8 million worth of tickets in the 2012 fiscal year. That's down $1.75 million from the year before and $16.7 million if you go back to 2006.

Meanwhile, the lottery is contributing more for scholarships that help high school grads pay for college in New Mexico.

The lottery has cut expenses to make it happen including cuts in advertising, the very thing that attracts much-needed, new customers.

“We see it as a responsibility of ours,” says Caroline Muraida, president of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico.

“You can go to school here, get a great education and not have to go into great debt,” adds Jake Wellman, UNM’s student regent.

More than 75,000 students have attended state universities and technical colleges with the help of a Legislative Lottery Scholarship since 1996.

University of New Mexico students like Wellman and Muraida want to make sure that continues.

“My brother is a junior with a group of students about to graduate and plan where they’re going to college are going to face a big uncertainty,” Wellman says. “They are not sure if they will have to take out loans, wondering if they'll be able to justify taking out the loans to go to an in-state college.”

They are now bringing together students, parents and legislators for a UNM summit later this month.

They will explore ideas like whether the scholarships should be based on financial needs or academic achievement, or whether the current requirement for a 2.5 grade-point average should be higher.

At the end, students will be asked to give their input on what might work best so it can go to legislators.

“We think we'll have a powerful message when we get to Santa Fe with an initiative students are rallying behind,” Wellman says.

Wellman says he is hoping the Legislature will address this issue in the upcoming legislative session in January.

Larry Behrens, spokesman for the state Higher Education Department, says the fund will not “go dry” but concedes the financial report on lottery scholarship revenue is "concerning."

"Working with the Legislature, we will continue to make every effort to explore solutions that are fair to students and financially sound," he says.

The New Mexico Lottery says the solution should include new ways to promote the lottery because it all comes down to ticket sales.

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New Mexico (change)

New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
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Governor: Susana Martinez
Lieutenant Governor: John Sanchez
Attorney General: Gary King
Secretary of State: Dianna J. Durán

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