Four tribal college presidents want their students to be eligible for the state lottery scholarship. Under current law, only students attending public or community colleges are eligible for the scholarship.
The tribal college presidents told lawmakers that by denying their students access to the scholarship, the state was leaving out those who need it the most.
“We’re a very small minority that’s being excluded from this, and yet we are citizens of this state,” said Della Warrior, president of the Institute of Native American Art.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said all American Indian students with passing grades are eligible for scholarships upon graduation from high school, but not if they attend the tribal colleges.
He said the state does not have the same control over curriculum at the tribal colleges that it has at the public colleges.
And, Sanchez said he was concerned that allowing the scholarships for students at tribal colleges would open the door for others looking to get a slice of the pie, like private colleges.
Sanchez said his concern was for the integrity of the program. He worried that instead of providing full scholarships, it could become diluted to the point where students received as little as $50 in assistance.
Dr. Ferlin Clark, president of Dine College, said 75 percent of American Indian students who attend college drop out in the first year.
Tribal colleges have a much better retention rate, and students who start at a tribal college and then transfer to a public institution are four times more likely to succeed, he said.
Clark estimated that the impact of including tribal colleges would be about $500,000, out of a $38 million program.
House Majority Floor Leader Ken Martinez, D-Grants, said American Indian students represent about 10 percent of the state’s high school population, they account for only 4 percent of the lottery scholarships.
“It’s the lowest percentage of participation by any group of New Mexicans,” Martinez said. “There is an inequity. I see it very clearly in my district.”
— Associated Press
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