New Mexico is paying college tuition for illegal immigrants with COVID relief funds

The New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act provides scholarships covering tuition and fees at the state's public higher education institutions.

Campus Reform covered the bill's advancement through the legislature in February.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act into law, which provides scholarships covering tuition and fees at the state’s public higher education institutions. 

The law extends to illegal immigrants, The New York Times reports, in addition to prison inmates and students from “tribal nations” that extend beyond state borders. 

”A fully funded Opportunity Scholarship opens the door for every New Mexican to reach higher, strengthening our economy, our families and our communities,” Lujan Grisham said in a press release.

Public Information Officer for the New Mexico Higher Education Department Stephanie Montoya affirmed to Campus Reform that citizenship or proof of immigration is required to be eligible for the scholarship.

The New York Times reports that the program will cost $75 million for the 2023 fiscal year, with “$63 million com[ing] from pandemic relief funds.” 

[RELATED: OPINION: Democrats’ ‘free’ community college plan puts illegal immigrants ahead of blue-collar Americans]

Alternative funding will be needed after 2023, according to the newspaper. 

Campus Reform covered the bill’s advancement through the legislature in February. Originally, the plan was expected to rake $85.5 million from the fund to cover partial tuition for undergraduate students. 

Per the administration’s calculations, the scholarship is expected to support up to 35,000 students starting in the fall semester.

Eight Republicans voted in favor of this Democrat-led legislation, which was spearheaded by state lawmakers Senator Elizabeth Stefanics and Representative Joy Garratt.

[RELATED: VA Gov. Northam makes undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition, assistance programs]

Scholarships will be reserved for students who have not earned a Bachelor’s degree and are enrolled in a minimum of six credit hours but do not surpass 18 in one semester. 

Students must meet the evaluated criteria to renew for the next semester, including maintaining a 2.5 GPA. 

”Governor Lujan Grisham is clear about her intention to seek continued recurring funding for the Opportunity Scholarship, and what’s more, legislators from both sides of the aisle have already voiced their support for identifying lasting funding for the program,” Montoya said. “We’re confident that our work with the Legislature will ensure the Opportunity Scholarship continues to provide tuition-free access to higher education for tens of thousands of New Mexicans for years to come.”

Campus Reform has contacted Lujan Grisham and bill sponsors for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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