First thoughts on “free” college

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. With a 2.5 GPA required will this plan encourage grade inflation?
  6. 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.

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4 Replies to “First thoughts on “free” college”

  1. The other day, Santa Fe School Board Chair Steven Carillo was on KSFR morning show. He estimated that close to 80% of the students at SFCC are on remedial track. It seems that in addition to the questions Paul asks in his piece here, we have to wonder if students are ready for college or if these funds would be spent on educational damage control for the failures of our K-12 school system. It would seem that these programs would go primarily to the well prepared, aka the well off. How do we pull up the rest of the college age population and indeed, who has the genie bottle with all those jobs waiting to pop out?

  2. New Mexico has a ridiculously large number of public colleges, most of which have dismal graduation rates and declining enrollment. The Gov’s plan is a subsidy to fuel these engines of political patronage and postpone the need for consolidation and reform.

  3. I agree we do not need to fund free tuition.We do need to ask the question on the literacy of our primary grades and literacy classes for parents of limited English.
    Further our two and four year college graduation rates are far below expectations.
    The question must be asked about high school core requirement 4 years of English to included reading instruction 4 years of Social studies NM History, World History American History part 1 and Part 2.
    Two years of civics 3 years of math GMath Commercial math practical skills math and advance math or a combination of math.
    It is time to stop word smithing special Education and review practical instruction.
    Free college tuition why not trades at all high schools why not funding our senior centers in rural areas and rural area health clinics and vet transportation from rural areas to the VA.

    We spend more than most states on college yet we have low results focus on our primary grades multi lingual homes rural community centers and the trades in high school.The goal is to produce a literate graduate that is marketable and who’s population will draw industries.

    To this end both our Gov and PED have fallen short.We need fewer palaces on our college campuses more PhD instruction in undergraduate classes less travel and cutting tuition. maybe the expression is true our colleges are business with a sideline of education.

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