Rising College Participation - Representative Block Seeks to Kill Scholarships

Alamogordo Conservative Daily

Photo byNew Mexico State

As the Public high Schools in New Mexico slip and falter, due to political infighting, and a lack of a directional plan for improvement, with a potential restructuring of the complete leadership system; the bright spot in New Mexico,  is higher education and vocational education improvements.

Rising College Participation due to affordability and access…

Enrollment grew this fall by nearly 4,000 students, an increase of about 4% from fall last year, according to New Mexico Higher Education Department data. Now at about 105,000 total students, officials said this year marked the first in a decade that enrollment in the state’s higher education institutions saw a rebound.

A major factor, Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said, is the Opportunity Scholarship program, which this year was bolstered to provide free tuition to more New Mexicans, including people hoping to return to college after dropping out.

This fall, according to the HED, over 34,000 students received the scholarship, and over 10,000 got the Lottery Scholarship. The department estimates that 1,600 students are getting the Opportunity Scholarship at tribal colleges, and almost 1,000 are getting the Lottery Scholarship.

Did you know college in in NM is tuition-free due to the Opportunity Scholarship program for those living in New Mexico? 

Thanks to this incredible Opportunity Scholarship created in 2022! But has it had any impact so far in removing barriers for more New Mexicans to accomplish their educational dreams? 

✅ 36,000+ students benefitted in Fall 2022

✅ 4.3% enrollment increase statewide

✅ 9.8% increase in first-time, full-time students

The Senate Sunday passed the budget funding this pro http://ow.ly/b16P50NccNj

The bills passed the house, and the Senate finance committee, and the full Senate. 

Within the new budget preliminary public school appropriation is up 8 percent from FY23, or about $302 million, and includes $252 million in the SEG for extended learning, $15 million for education assistants, $32 million for at-risk students, and $40 million nonrecurring for career technical education. The SFC amendment reduced extended learning appropriations for K-12 Plus to $50 million and reallocated $47 million to a 1 percent across the board pay increase for public school, higher education and state employees to cover costs related to inflation and health care premiums.

Under the HAFC substitute, public school and higher education employees would receive average salary increases of 5 percent, and the minimum salary for educational assistants would be $25 thousand. HB2 also provides a 1 percent education pension contribution increase and provides parity with state employees for educator health insurance coverage.
For higher education, the SFC amendment fully funds the Opportunity scholarship at $146 million, up $101 million from HAFC substitute. The SFC amendment also adds funding for athletics totaling $4.7 million above FY23 levels. Total higher education appropriations in the SFC amended are up $187.1 million, or 18 percent above FY23.

All the while college enrollment is up thanks to the Opportunity Scholarships, opening the doors for disadvantaged students and underrepresented communities; such as the Native American community to increase college enrollment in New Mexico.

Alamogordo’s District 51 Representative John Block submitted House Bill 107 to END Opportunity Scholarships.

John Block proudly extols his status as an individual of Hispanic and Native Culture in his Wikipedia profile. However the Block family being a hard working class family “took full advantage of available scholarships for higher education for their children”, according to sources. 

So it is with great irony that a seated representative, that constantly criticizes the educational systems of New Mexico, yet is a product of such system, seeks to repeal the Opportunity Scholarship Fund. 

Based upon the analysis of the bill as written it would also repeal the lottery scholarship fund. 

Per the analysis; “TECHNICAL ISSUES
Two existing scholarship programs, the College Affordability Grant and the Legislative Endowment Scholarship Program, were rolled into the new Opportunity Scholarship in 2022. There is no provision in HB107 to restore these programs.” 

Thus Blocks bill would kill all the scholarships granted via lottery or otherwise within the state of New Mexico.


Commentary and facts:

Fortunately, the Block Higher Education Access Bill by John Block, does not stand a chance, and has not even left the first committee.

The bill sponsorship by Representative Block, with NO cosponsors, proves a hypocritical stance, of one that took full advantage of the opportunities of a higher level education in New Mexico. Former Democratic operative for Albuquerque Mayor Keller turned opportunistically Republican, John Block would deny others less fortunate or less savvy at using the system than his family, the opportunity. 

Photo byAlbuquerque Journal

John Block, a man who claims native roots, should listen to the president of Diné College who called the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act a "game changer" when it comes to providing access to higher education to members of the Navajo Nation.

Charles "Monty" Roessel, president of the tribal college that has campuses in Shiprock and Crownpoint, explained in   prior interview that based on figures in the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, about 30,000 people within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation have some college education but no degree.

Since New Mexico is considered to comprise about one-third of the tribal land, the scholarship has the potential to help about 10,000 people earn either a certificate, associate degree or bachelor's degree, he said.

"That would have a transformational impact on the economy, of not just the Navajo Nation, but of the region," Roessel said. "That's how big this is, being able to move and change the workforce. What this provides is amazing."

Yet, District 51, Representative John Block made an effort to end the Opportunity Scholarships and the two existing scholarship programs, the College Affordability Grant and the Legislative Endowment Scholarship Program which were rolled into the new Opportunity Scholarship in 2022. There is no provision in HB107 to restore these programs.

John Block stood against higher and vocational education accessibility during the 2023 legislative session. 

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