In Race for Tuition-Free College, New Mexico Stakes a Claim
As universities across the United States face steep enrollment declines,
New Mexico’s government is embarking on a pioneering experiment to fight
that trend: tuition-free higher education for all state residents.
After President Joe Biden’s plan for universal free community college
failed to gain traction in Congress, New Mexico, one of the nation’s
poorest states, has emerged with perhaps the most ambitious plans as
states scramble to come up with their own initiatives.
A new state law approved in a rare show of bipartisanship allocates
almost 1% of the state’s budget toward covering tuition and fees at
public colleges and universities, community colleges and tribal colleges.
All state residents from new high school graduates to adults enrolling
part-time will be eligible regardless of family income. The program is
also open to immigrants regardless of their immigration status.
Some legislators and other critics question whether there should have
been income caps and whether the state, newly flush with oil and gas
revenue, can secure long-term funding to support the program beyond its
first year. The legislation, which seeks to treat college as a public
resource similar to primary and secondary education, takes effect in July.
Although nearly half the states have embraced similar initiatives that
seek to cover at least some tuition expenses for some students, New
Mexico’s law goes further by covering tuition and fees before other
scholarships and sources of financial aid are applied, enabling students
to use those other funds for expenses such as lodging, food or child care.
“The New Mexico program is very close to ideal,” said Michael Dannenberg,
vice president of strategic initiatives and higher education policy at
the nonprofit advocacy group Education Reform Now. Considering the state’s
income levels and available resources, he added that New Mexico’s
program is among the most generous in the country.
非營利倡議組織Education Reform Now策略倡議暨高教政策副總裁丹能貝格說：「新墨西哥的計畫非常貼近理想。」他表示，考量收入水準與可用資源，新墨西哥州的計畫是全美最慷慨的。
Dannenberg emphasized that New Mexico is going beyond what larger, more
prosperous states like Washington and Tennessee have already done.
Programs in other states often limit tuition assistance to community
colleges, exclude some residents because of family income or impose
conditions requiring students to work part time.
文／Simon Romero 譯／陳韋廷