New Mexico is unveiling a proposal to make in-state tuition free at its public colleges and universities. The program would apply to all 29 of the state’s two- and four-year public institutions and would cover all students, regardless of family income or immigration status. The tuition program also includes funds for adults looking to return to school at community colleges. It is one of the boldest state-led efforts to expand access to higher education
The new program in New Mexico would be open to recent graduates of high schools or high school equivalency programs in the state. Students must maintain a 2.5 grade point average to receive the benefit, which would cover only tuition, not living expenses. The funds would be available only after a student drew from existing state aid programs and from federal grants.
Governor Lujan Grisham said in a statement, “This program is an absolute game changer for New Mexico. In the long run, we’ll see improved economic growth, improved outcomes for New Mexican workers and families and parents.” Carmen Lopez-Wilson, the deputy secretary of New Mexico’s Higher Education Department, said the program would benefit about 55,000 students a year at an annual cost of $25 million to $35 million.
Ms. Lopez-Wilson said the relatively low cost of the program reflected low tuition costs in the state. A year of tuition at the University of New Mexico costs $7,556 for state residents. At Central New Mexico Community College, the state’s largest community college, tuition is usually less than $3,000 per year. New Mexico plans to use its revenues from oil production to pay for the program. An oil boom in the Permian Basin, which is shared by New Mexico and Texas, has been boosting the state’s revenues. Approval and appropriations from the State Legislature is necessary if the program is to commence as expected in 2020.