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New Mexico is offering free college to state residents. Here’s how the state plans to pay for it

‘We’re going to deliver a major boost. F-R-E-E, let’s make it proof.’

In this July 9, 2019 file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks during a news conference in Santa Fe, N.M.
In this July 9, 2019 file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks during a news conference in Santa Fe, N.M. New Mexico’s Democratic governor wants to provide free tuition and waive fees for in-state students across the state’s network of public universities, colleges and community colleges.
Associated Press

New Mexico announced a new plan for free college for all state residents Wednesday.

What happened: New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship while speaking at an education summit at Central New Mexico Community College, according to CNN.

“We’re going to deliver a major boost. F-R-E-E, let’s make it proof,” Lujan Grisham said, according to CNN. “It’s been a really long time since I crossed the stage for my diploma at the University of New Mexico, but even though I spelled it out very slowly, I still know what ‘free’ spells, and I also know that free college for New Mexico students is the right thing to do.”

Under the plan, state college tuition will be free for students, regardless of their family income.

New Mexico’s plan would give students free college tuition for all 29 state colleges, including both two- and four-year colleges. The program still needs requires legislative approval, according to The New York Times.

How to pay: The state will use the revenue from oil refineries to cover the costs, according to the New York Post. However, the program wouldn’t cover living expenses. Students would only receive the funds after they’ve already used resources from state and financial aid.

Eligibility: Students can receive the funding if they’ve graduated from high school (or an equivalency program) with a 2.5 grade-point average. Students with all immigration status can apply.

What they’re saying: “I think we’re at a watershed moment,” Caitlin Zaloom, a cultural anthropologist at New York University, told The New York Times. “It used to be that a high school degree could allow a young adult to enter into the middle class. We are no longer in that situation. We don’t ask people to pay for fifth grade and we also should not ask people to pay for sophomore year.”