New Mexico announced Wednesday it would make college tuition-free for all state residents at its two- and four-year colleges.
Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told the New York Times in a Wednesday interview ahead of the formal announcement that the plan would apply to the state’s 29 public colleges and universities and is one of the most all-encompassing programs because it offers free tuition to students regardless of financial need.
“This program is an absolute game-changer for New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham told the Times. “In the long run, we’ll see improved economic growth, improved outcomes for New Mexican workers and families and parents.”
The plan would still need legislative approval before it goes into effect. The Times report said the costs for the program — which would only cover tuition and not other incidentals such as textbooks and room and board — would be funded by oil production revenue.
The funds would be available to students only after they have exhausted existing financial aid programs — state and federal grants, for example. All students must also maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA to be considered for the program.
New Mexico’s program is part of the ongoing debate over if tuition should be free at public colleges and universities. A recent poll found that 60 percent of Americans favor free tuition at public four-year colleges, with 79 percent of Democrats supporting the measure and only 35 percent of Republicans favoring it.
It is also a popular proposal among Democrat 2020 presidential contenders Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who have proposed that all public colleges be free.
Other states have existing programs on the books similar to New Mexico’s proposed plan. New York has a measure to allow families who earn $125,000 or less to receive free tuition at any of the state’s two-year and four-year colleges.