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Lottery Scholarships in New Mexico

Lottery Scholarships in New Mexico
Getting More Minorities to College

New Mexico’s lottery scholarships have helped more New Mexicans of all backgrounds and income levels go to college, but the program has especially helped increase the number of minority students in higher education.

The program, which began in the fall of 1997, pays tuition for New Mexico high school graduates who immediately go on to college and maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average.

It paid $36 million in the fiscal year that ended in June, and ended the year with a $51 million surplus.

From 1991 to 1996, before the program began, the University of New Mexico enrolled an average of 666 minority freshmen who had graduated from New Mexico high schools each year. From 1998 to 2003, the figure soared to an average of 1,143.

Of those, 80 percent had a lottery scholarship.

“In absolute numbers, the program clearly attracted new minority and low-income students to UNM,” the study’s authors, two UNM economists, wrote.

However, the study concluded the program is not a cost-effective way to get minority and low-income students to attend UNM, since half the beneficiaries were not minority students and 70 percent were higher income.

The study defined higher income as families earning more than $40,000 a year.

The findings were published in November by Harvard University’s Civil Rights Project. The study by UNM professors Melissa Binder and Philip Ganderton is called, “The New Mexico Lottery Scholarship: Does it Help Minority and Low-Income Students?”

The scholarships also have redistributed enrollment among the state’s colleges, the study found. UNM’s main campus gained the most students. 

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