Without fanfare, Gov. Susana Martinez has signed legislation aimed at putting the lottery scholarship fund back on a solvent track. Wednesday, March 12 was the last day for the Governor to act on bills passed in the 2014 legislative session.
Senate Bill 347 squeaked through the Senate with a couple of minutes left on the legislative clock, after the House had added on some substantive amendments. Once the smoke had cleared, it was discovered that a so-called "drafting error" in the amended language could have meant students wouldn't get their tuition on time. Gov. Martinez fixed that error with line-item veto language.
Students who've completed three or more semesters (legacy students) will continue to get full tuition up to eight semesters. But big changes are in store for the non-legacy students, as their award will be calculated based on a sector tuition average and the amount of money available in the scholarship fund. The Higher Education Department will calculate a uniform percentage of tuition for each student across each sector (research, comprehensive, two-year).
Awards for non-legacy students have also been reduced from eight semesters to seven and the full-time status for these students in four-year institutions goes up from 12 to 15 credit hours per semester.
The legislation solidifies scholarship funding for the current spring semester and for the FY15 academic year. For the two years following, the fund will be bolstered with money from the liquor excise tax. But then that infusion will sunset and lawmakers maybe looking again for a solvency fix.