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Deep cuts to lottery scholarship impact NMSU students

LAS CRUCES, NM – New Mexico State University students are struggling to pay for tuition this academic school year due to cuts in the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship.

The lottery will now cover only 60 percent of tuition costs for the 2017-18 school year. This is a significant drop compared to recent years when the lottery scholarship covered 90 percent of tuition costs. According to state education officials, the cut was made to stretch revenue for the financial aid program.

According to the Higher Education Department, New Mexico State students now only receive $1,721, which is a decrease of more than $700 from last year. New Mexico community colleges will also decrease their scholarship amounts from $617 to $432.

Earlier this year the New Mexico Board of Regents agreed on a rise of about six percent in tuition for NMSU and its branch colleges around the state. This creates additional problems for NMSU students.

Efrashia Crespin, 19, a sophomore at NMSU, is among the many students who are now facing problems due to the financial cuts in the lottery scholarship. Crespin, who has a part-time job, said she is now

Students at New Mexico State University walk to their early morning classes on Aug. 22. (Photo by Ione Blanco)

paying out of pocket for her books and for some of her tuition.

“I am a student that comes from a low-income family and the lottery was a big factor in helping with my tuition and book fee costs,” Crespin said.

She is aware of the possible additional cuts in the lottery scholarship in the near future and she plans to apply to other financial aid programs such as Scholar Dollar$ to help pay for school. However, she thinks she may have to drop to a part-time enrollment status eventually.

“Due to recent cutbacks and the increase of tuition, my paycheck only helps oh so much with paying my expenses,” Crespin said.

Austin Gentry, the Financial Aid outreach advisor at NMSU, said the reduction in the lottery is due to recent decreased revenue from New Mexico lottery proceeds. Gentry explained that the scholarship fund must maintain a $2 million balance at the end of each year.

Gentry said that even with the lottery cuts there has been no decline in enrollment at NMSU this academic year. In fact, NMSU has seen the opposite.

New Mexico State University students visit the financial aid office Aug. 22, in the Educational Services building. (Photo by Ione Blanco)

“This year, NMSU welcomed the largest first-year class since 2012, thanks to the efforts of the university admission’s office, new scholarships to incoming students, building a caring community, and various other programs NMSU has started in recent years,” Gentry said.

According to the Higher Education Department, $39.5 million were funded for lottery proceeds, but this falls well short of the $68 million needed to pay for full tuition.

Anissa Wright, 21, a senior at NMSU, has had the lottery scholarship since her freshman year back in 2014. She said she didn’t expect the cuts to impact her that much, but certainly feels the financial problems now.

“I had absolutely no money to assist me with books this semester,” Wright said.

Wright has two jobs to help pay for school and is a full-time student at the NMSU main campus. She also lives off campus and has to worry about paying for rent, bills and food. Wright said she takes out student loans to help pay for school and now has to pick up extra shifts in order to make ends meet.

With additional cuts in the lottery coming, Wright believes there isn’t any way to prepare for it, but will give it her all to come up with the money to pay for her schooling and other necessities.

“I will do my best to work as much as I can on top of being a student, being involved in on-campus organizations, being a coach, and internships for my future career,” Wright said. “I also plan to take full advantage of my fall, winter, and spring breaks to get caught up financially.”

While some students take out student loans to help pay for school, Gentry said students are seeking to avoid debt by working or finding other scholarships.

“We have not seen any data that shows students are borrowing more in student loans to cover the reduction in lottery scholarship funds,” Gentry said.

According to the NMSU financial aid website, students must take at least 15 credit hours and maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA or higher in order to keep the NM lottery scholarship. Students must also maintain continuous enrollment to keep the scholarship.

Ione Blanco collaborated in this story.

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