According to several media outlets Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham has put forth a plan to make college “free” for New Mexico residents. Initial estimates are for the program to cost $25 to $35 million annually, but thanks to New Mexico’s ongoing oil boom in SE New Mexico the money is available at least right now.
It will require approval from the Legislature when it convenes in January, but is this a good plan? Here are some points:
- New Mexico is already among the top spending states when it comes to higher education yet the number of students attending New Mexico schools of higher education is declining. Will “free” college make New Mexico more attractive if nothing is done about our economic and K-12 systems?
- College students are disproportionately higher income and students from low-income families tend to be less academically-prepared. How is “free” college not just a benefit for high income families?
- What will be done to ensure that bureaucracy and wasteful spending don’t grow out of control causing the price of “free” college to grow out of control?
- What will be done to ensure that recipients of “free” college remain in New Mexico and contribute to the State’s economy? After all, this program won’t help New Mexico much if a majority of graduates find jobs in our faster-growing neighboring states.
- With a 2.5 GPA required will this plan encourage grade inflation?
- Will the current lottery scholarship program be eliminated or will the money generated by the lottery be used to pay for this program?
Needless to say, we at the Rio Grande Foundation don’t think “free” college is the highest and best use of the oil surplus, but there are better and worse ways to structure “free” college. Of course the Legislature will have the final say.