State public colleges offer affordable higher ed option

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Bridges believes it is important to apply to a range of colleges and we encourage all students to apply to at least one in-state option. New Mexico's public colleges and universities offer a wide range of educational opportunities and courses of study - trade or vocational, majors and minors - with a more affordable price tag. This is particularly true due to the reduced cost of state resident tuition and scholarships offered only to New Mexico residents, especially the New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship.

The Lottery Scholarship pays for a certain percentage of tuition at both two and four-year nonprofit public schools in New Mexico. The amount covered varies from one school to another and from year to year. Students can use the Lottery over three semesters at two-year schools and for seven out of eight years while pursuing a bachelor's degree. This scholarship kicks in during the second semester of their first year at college.

The Lottery Scholarship is available to all New Mexico residents who graduate from a New Mexico high school or with a New Mexico General Equivalency Diploma or High School Equivalency certificate (homeschooled students must pass the New Mexico GED/ HSE to be eligible). Students must maintain full-time course loads - 12 credit hours at a two-year college and 15 credit hours in a bachelor's degree program - and have a 2.5+ GPA to be eligible for the scholarship and to keep it while in school. Students with documented disabilities may request to take fewer credit hours and have access to additional semesters for the scholarship.

A new aspect of the Lottery Scholarship is that students have up to 16 months from the time they graduate high school or pass their GED/ HSE exams to enroll full-time in college. Previous criteria required students to enroll in the semester after graduating or completing their GED/ HSE.

Most NM schools also offer some kind of gap scholarship for the first semester. Eligibility for this scholarship varies from one college to another and may include GPA and/or standardized test scores (ACT/ SAT). Inquire at your prospective colleges to see what their requirements might be. You can learn more about the Lottery Scholarship here. (hed.state.nm.us/students/lotteryscholarship.aspx)

Another financially reasonable option for New Mexico residents hoping to study at the undergraduate level is the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), which is part of the larger organization Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). WUE allows qualified NM graduates to attend one of more than 160 public two and four-year colleges across 16 western states and several US territories. Students pay approximately 150 percent of in-state tuition, rather than out-of-state tuition, which can be two to three times more than in-state tuition costs. Eligibility and how the WUE tuition is distributed varies; visit the WUE website to learn more. (wiche.edu/wue)

Bridges can work with you in applying to colleges, even if you have not yet decided where to apply or what to study. Call us (575) 758-5074 or email info@bridgesproject.org to make an appointment. The office will be closed over some of the holidays, so visit our website (bridgesproject.org) to find out when we are open. Bridges wishes all of you a happy holiday season.

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