‘Grace period’ for lottery scholarship bill advances

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A bill to give students a grace period before they have to be enrolled in college in order to use the lottery scholarship, is one step closer to becoming law.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, passed the state Senate Tuesday in a 34 to 5 vote.

“It supports our students in their ability to get a degree and to give them a little bit of flexibility as to when they begin college,” he said.

Sen. Soules says the bill would alleviate pressure for kids to attend college right away and give them the time to really think about if they want to attend, potentially saving money by avoiding investing in eventual dropouts.

It also gives students a chance to travel and relax or even save up some money by working full time before attending college.

The bill unanimously passed two committees to get to the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon for a full vote, where it received some opposition.

Several lawmakers asked whether or not a student, under the bill, could leave the state, attend an out of state college, come back to New Mexico within 16 months and then still be eligible for the scholarship.

Sen. Soules says he does not believe that’s the case.

“Mr. President, Senator, if this makes it to the House I think that would be an important part to put in,” Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, said in response to that.

Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, says he reluctantly supports the bill, but asked, “Where is it that in the forms or otherwise that they’re indicating that they attended somewhere else where they would be disqualified from the lottery?”

Sen. Soules responded by saying he believes it would be the students’ duty to truthfully list that on the application to the New Mexico college they apply to.

Other lawmakers, like Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, argued it’s best for students to go to college right after high school graduation.

Ultimately, the bill passed and now heads to the House for consideration.

Attempts at this bill and similar bills in past years have all failed.

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