Updated: February 11, 2020 03:27 PM
Created: February 10, 2020 06:40 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—The governor’s Opportunity Scholarship cleared its first committee hurdle Monday, but new changes to the proposal are expected to raise the cost by another $10 million.
The governor’s initiative for free college was originally estimated to cost $35 million. The new revamped version of the proposal, which will be phased in over two years, would eventually cost $45 million.
“The rework is an indication that our relationship–two-year and four–they're different,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham.
State lawmakers would roll out the Opportunity Scholarship in phases. In the first year, the scholarship would cover 100% of tuition and fees for students at two year colleges. In the second year, the program would expand to cover four-year colleges.
The program will help students cover the gap in tuition after applying the Lottery Scholarship and other state scholarships.
“It's going to work for everyone and for lower income students. It's the middle dollar program, if you will,” Governor Lujan-Grisham said. “It says that we understand that leveraging is tricky and we need to do that so we cover all the costs for those lower income students and not unfairly creating a situation where middle and higher income students get a better deal.”
Some Republican lawmakers have expressed criticism over the scholarship.
“You can't really say this is free tuition because somebody is paying something somewhere on it—and there's always going to be a point where there's not going to be enough money,” said Sen. Stuart Ingle (R-District 27).
The governor’s campaign recently rolled out a flurry of social media ads asking voters to put pressure on lawmakers.
“I'm feeling really good—not totally overconfident, so we'll be in your offices, make no mistake about that, but I'm feeling really good,” said the governor.
The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee next. A companion bill is also working its way through the Senate.
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