New funding expands access to higher education in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – This March, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law more funding for the Opportunity Scholarship to ensure more New Mexico students would have their tuition and fees covered.

“Finances tend to be the number one item for students across the country,” explained Brian Malone, UNM’s Student Financial Aid Office Director. “Because it’s also not just going to school, it’s also still having a roof over your head, having food, things like that. You have to have your general living expenses still exist, and a lot of times you aren’t able to work or work fewer hours.”

To qualify, you have to be a New Mexico resident enrolled in at least six credit hours at a public college or university in New Mexico. The student must also maintain a 2.5 GPA and be working toward a training certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree.

“It goes up to 160 credit hours for a bachelor’s degree. Generally, a student can earn about degree anywhere from 120 to 128 hours,” Malone explained. “That allows for maybe someone who had some hours some years ago and returning to school that they have a little bit of buffer and maybe they don’t complete their bachelor’s degree while on the Opportunity Scholarship.”

At UNM, you won’t have to submit another application for the Opportunity Scholarship but be sure to check with the school you’re applying to just in case. Even if you know you qualify for this state scholarship, it’s always a good idea to still apply for the FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

“The Opportunity Scholarship can help pay for tuition and fees or it can apply to all tuition and fees,” Malone said. “So if the student that applies for the FASFA, if they get a Pell Grant or if they get loans or they get other resources from the federal government that can apply to other expenses besides tuition and fees, such as room and board, transportation expenses and books and supplies.”

UNM says current students usually get a good idea of their financial aid package by March or April but the university is still looking for clarification on special circumstances from the state. UNM will directly notify students if they qualify.