NM Dems propose free tuition, GOP lawmakers want to ban CRT

The Opportunity Act would allocate $85.5 million for free tuition for in-state residents at 29 public institutions.

New Mexico Republicans recently introduced legislation that would ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory.

Campus Reform is currently tracking two bills in New Mexico that affect education. One proposal would make public universities free for in-state students. 

The other would ban Critical Race Theory in public schools.

Free Tuition

Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico are proposing a bill that would make in-state residents eligible for free tuition at any of the state’s 29 public colleges and universities. 

Titled the “Opportunity Scholarship Act”, Senate Bill 140 seeks to expand access to in-state public colleges and universities by allocating $85.5 million to the scholarship project. The price tag is set to provide full tuition for up to 35,000 students.

Students who are eligible to receive the state-funded scholarship include “New Mexico resident[s] who [are] enrolled or enrolling at least half-time in a public post-secondary educational institution or tribal college” within 90 days of graduating high school.

[RELATED: OPINION: Leftist ‘free college’ proposals hurt financially responsible families]

Scholarship recipients are required to maintain a grade point average of 2.5, the equivalent of a C-average, and undertake a minimum of 6 credit hours. Students who have obtained a Bachelor’s degree are not eligible for the scholarship.

 The text stipulates the amount each recipient receives cannot “exceed one hundred percent of tuition and fees after all other states financial aid has been applied.”

If passed, the bill is projected to take effect July 1, 2022.

The bill was introduced by Representative Joy Garratt (D) and Senator Elizabeth Stefanics (D) on Jan. 20. On Friday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her support.

“The Opportunity Scholarship Act will ensure college affordability by establishing an all-encompassing free college package for New Mexicans looking to enroll at a public college or university in the state,” Grishman said, according to AP News. 

The bill has garnered support from the student governments of two of the state’s public institutions. Leadership from the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University penned a joint article of support of the legislation, stating:

The proposal would expand previous scholarship opportunities aimed at providing no-cost education for state residents to keep up with the increasing costs of tuition. 

New Mexico became the first state to implement a state-funded scholarship by installing the Lottery Scholarship for eligible students. Similar to SB 140 stipulations, students were required to be New Mexico residents and maintain a 2.5 GPA.

However, students were required to enroll in 15 credit hours per semester under the program.

In July, KRQE reported the program would cover 100% of tuition for the first time since 2015 due to increased funding tallying $63.5 million for the 2022 fiscal year. However, the program is now speculated to only cover 60-75% of tuition costs.

Critical Race Theory 

In addition to the free tuition proposal, the New Mexico legislature will also consider a bill intended to ban Critical Race Theory in public schools.

Introduced on Jan. 19 by 10 Republican representatives, House Bill 91 states, “The department shall not allow a course in critical race theory to be taught in public schools.”

The bill defines Critical Race Theory as content that one race is “inherently racist, sexist, or intentionally or inadvertently oppressive,” “responsible for the intentional or inadvertent oppression of another race,” and “is superior to another race.”

[RELATED: UPDATED: DeSantis, Noem offer legislation banning Critical Race Theory in public universities]

Furthermore, the bill condemns the teaching that “a person’s moral character is determined by the race or gender attributed to that person” and that a person’s race or gender “makes that person responsible for past transgressions of that race or gender.”

Campus Reform has reported on states that have taken action on Critical Race Theory in the legislature. Missouri, Rhode Island, North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, and Maine have also introduced bills to ban CRT at the K-12 level. 

Campus Reform reached out to both legislators, the Governor’s office, and both student governments for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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