Statewide Summit Addresses Future Of Lottery Scholarship
SOCORRO, N.M. April 25, 2013 – A two-day experiment in lobbying by Tech students has mushroomed into a statewide discussion about the future of the flagging New Mexico Lottery Scholarship Fund.
Sohaib Soliman, Student Government Association president (and a Macey Scholar), is organizing a daylong summit of state legislators, university officials and other stakeholders in Socorro on Saturday, April 27.
Sohaib Soliman -- SGA president, Macey Scholar and lobbyist -- has organized a statewide summit to address the future of the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship Fund, which will be in Socorro on Saturday, April 27.
“For the first time, everyone will be at the table together,” Soliman said. “We want to find a proper solution that many people can agree with.”
Among those expected to participate in the Lottery Scholarship Summit are senators, representatives, university presidents, financial aid officers, Student Government Association leaders from all the four-year institutions and representatives of various state agencies.
The Lottery Scholarship Fund saw a shortfall of about $10 million this year. Legislators considered various proposals to shore up the fund – most of which called for spending cuts by limiting the eligibility.
Soliman organized a trip to Santa Fe in early March to convince key legislators and state officials to find a permanent solution to the fund’s financial problems.
“We knew the Lottery Scholarship was a big issue,” Soliman said. “So we thought, ‘Let’s get involved and see what’s going on.’”
Soliman was joined by fellow Tech students Malcolm Lockett, Victoria Ramirez and Colin Newton for the initial trip. Before long, they decided that they needed to maintain a presence until the end of the session. They called on the other four-year universities and enlisted the support of their Student Government Associations. Soliman and Newton decided to sacrifice their spring break to work to salvage the Lottery Scholarship fund.
“It got heated, so we had to stay longer,” Soliman said. “There were all sorts of bad proposals. We had to kill the bad proposals. But with no fix, the Higher Education Department would be forced to cut scholarships by 32 to 37 percent across the board. That’s something I wasn’t going to stand for.”
In the final two days of the legislative session, Newton and Soliman orchestrated a temporary fix, convincing key Senators and Governor Martinez to provide $10 million to the fund to keep it afloat for one more year.
“We were stuck in the middle of a political war,” Soliman said. “We went in with guns blazing, pointing out that we’re working for the students.”
In essence, the Tech students put together a $110 million deal that was intended to make everyone happy: $50 million from the state’s reserves to the Tobacco Settlement Fund, $50 million from the Tobacco fund to the Children, Youth and Family Department, and $10 million from the Tobacco fund to the Lottery Scholarship fund.
The Governor later vetoed the allocation from the state’s reserves, but the one-time $10 million reprieve for the Lottery fund is expected to stand. Yet, that’s still a stop-gap measure. Now, the state must find a long-term solution if New Mexico is going to continue to offer scholarship assistance to students.
The summit in Socorro aims to do just that – keep the conversation going and work towards a solution that will both help students and encourage college studies.
New Mexico Tech President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez praised the students for their efforts.
“They made a huge impact,” Lopez said. “They encouraged legislators to rethink how the Lottery Scholarship is being addressed and to consider their choices and decisions and how they will affect students.”
– NMT –
By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech