It goes without saying that there is a student debt crisis in the U.S.
Right now, Americans owe approximately $1.8 trillion dollars in student loans. And if something doesn’t change, those numbers will just keep climbing. But luckily, New Mexico is changing the way their residents pay for college.
On March 4, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act, a bill that will make college free to most residents of New Mexico. The scholarship will waive tuition for any New Mexico resident who attends an in-state public college or university. That is roughly 120,000 college students that will receive free tuition.
In a statement, Governor Lujan expressed her pride over New Mexico taking this momentous step.
“A fully funded Opportunity Scholarship opens the door for every New Mexican to reach higher, strengthening our economy, our families and our communities,” she said. “Signing this legislation sends a clear message to New Mexicans that we believe in them and the contributions they will make for their families and the future of our great state.”
Like any scholarship, the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship comes with requirements. Students must be enrolled in a minimum of six credit hours and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA to remain eligible for the scholarship.
But unlike other scholarships, the Opportunity Scholarship is open to both recent high school graduates as well as adult learners.
In a statement, co-sponsor of the bill, New Mexico State Representative Joy Garratt explained how close this bill hits to home for her. “I am an adult learner who actually graduated from college by taking six credits per semester, so this bill is personally important to me,” she said. “Working together with Governor Lujan Grisham, we have laid a strong foundation in early childhood education, K-12 education, and now, higher education.”
By making college free to all New Mexico residents, the state is leading the rest of the country in the fight for affordable college for all.
And so far, on Twitter, many people are expressing their support of the bill. “Tuition free college should be the rule of law in the United States and a basic right,” said one Twitter user. Another said: “Education that doesn’t leave people in crippling, lifelong debt shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
The bottom line is, when young Americans are saddled with massive amounts of student debt, they are less likely to take major life steps like buying a house, getting married or having children. The student debt crisis has effectively hobbled an entire generation. The only way the country can move forward is by fundamentally changing the system.
With this model in place, many are hoping the results of this initiative will spur the federal government to take similar action. If not by waiving tuition for public colleges, then at least erasing student debt.