A fresh start on education could mean a restart for the economy

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FARMINGTON, N.M. – The new law providing free tuition for New Mexico college students may help relieve our stressed economy. San Juan College has already seen an interest in people wanting to finish their education and join the workforce.

This fall, new and former students will get another opportunity at education.

“We’ve got students that have been calling us, they have some credit hours they want to know, ‘can I come back, can I finish?’ So as long as they haven’t exceeded 90 credit hours on their transcript, yes!” said Mindi Schrum, San Juan College’s Director of Finical Aid.

Senate Bill 140 passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham this year, provides free college tuition. Schrum adds that its living up to its name.

“So they could come in, in a program and get an associate’s degree, get several certificates that go with that associate’s degree then transfer to the four-year school it’s a great opportunity to educate New Mexico residents,” said Schrum.

Boomer Appleman, San Juan College’s vice president for Student Services, said all costs of tuition are covered no matter what time of year.

“Fall, spring and summer! Prior, it had just done fall and spring, so by allowing our students to go continuously enrolled for the full academic term, what happens then is that allows them to shorten their time in school and hastens their time to join the workforce,” said Appleman.

And just in the nick of time, when Farmington’s economy could use a boost.

“As we come out of the pandemic and as we come out of the economic downturn that was associated with it, we have a lot of jobs that need to be filled, and the way you fill those jobs is with a skilled workforce. And so community colleges and colleges, in general, are great at preparing students for the workforce,” Appleman said.

Appleman adds that the new law also provides opportunities for Native American populations in the Four Corners who live in or on New Mexico’s border.