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Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 7:52pm
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The New Mexico Lottery Scholarship has paid about $600 million dollars for tuition to students seeking a higher education in the state.
But with a higher demand and less available funds, the scholarship has been struggling.
"If that lottery goes then my parents can't pay because I have another sibling," said Ryan Gabaldon, a student at NMSU.
Lawmakers as well as Higher Education Department officials are discussing ideas to keep the program afloat.
Since the scholarship began in 1996, student's tuition has been paid in full helping more than 90,000 students attend college.
Lawmakers are discussing possible eligibility changes such as reducing the number of semesters the scholarship will pay from eight to seven.
Some proposals are considering raising the minimum GPA from 2.5 to 2.75.
The change would likely result in some students losing the scholarship.
"It's very hard to make that GPA," Zuniga said. "Even through it doesn't sound hard, these classes are hard."
Zuniga, who is in the pre-pharmacy program, said keeping her grades up already requires a lot of studying.
But she said she would do whatever she could to keep all her scholarships.
That's why NMSU officials said a GPA change would not be a long term solution with students eventually meeting the higher requirement.
Because the scholarship does help so many people, NMSU committed to paying 60 percent of the scholarship regardless of what happens with lawmakers.
Gabaldon is one of the nearly 4,200 students in the New Mexico State University system that qualified for the lottery scholarship for the Spring 2014 semester.
"For some if you don't get lottery then you can't go to school," Gabaldon said.
While NMSU did pay about $8 million out of their own budget, some students saw the difference on their student accounts.
"I still owed $1500 after a couple of scholarships that I had added on," said Katelyn Zuniga.
Zuniga said her scholarships help but some of her friends are having a much harder time.
"They don't have a lot of support from their families so they're trying to find jobs or they're already working trying to pay back for school," she said.
School officials said they are working hard to get more students on scholarships to help pay for tuition.
Officials added they hope legislators will fund the lottery scholarship in full for the spring semester and they do anticipate changes for the fall.