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Opportunity Scholarship grows New Mexico college enrollment by over 4% in first increase since 2010

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state Higher Education Department
announced on Thursday that New Mexico college enrollment has increased for the first time in
over a decade, growing by over 4% as a result of the governor’s creation of tuition-free college
with the Opportunity Scholarship.
The New Mexico Higher Education Department reported approximately 4,000 more New
Mexicans enrolled in a certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree program at the state’s public
colleges and universities this fall compared to the prior year, a 4.1 percent increase in
enrollment statewide. The number of first-time, full-time students also increased by over 9
percent. This year’s numbers mark the first growth in New Mexico’s college participation since
“As a direct result of our investment in tuition-free college and career training for New
Mexicans, higher education enrollment is on the rise for the first time in over a decade,” said
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “The Opportunity Scholarship began as a vision of opening
the doors to college for more New Mexicans than ever before – and now we see clearly that our
investments are making the dreams of so many students a reality right here at home. As we grow
and diversify the state’s economy and train our workforce for a thriving future, we are creating
more opportunities than ever for New Mexico families.”
“This year’s enrollment numbers are just the first indication of the amazing potential the
Opportunity Scholarship has to transform access to college and career training in New Mexico,”
said Higher Education Department Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez. “With continued
funding for the Opportunity and Lottery Scholarships and ongoing investments in support
programs that serve our diverse student population, we can ensure that more students are on a
path toward graduation and are moving toward success which will benefit New Mexico today
and for generations.”
While data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that enrollment
this fall declined nationally by 1 percent and decreased among freshman, students over the age
of 25, and for all ethnic groups other than Hispanic students, New Mexico is bucking the
national trend and showing the second-highest college enrollment gain of any state, following
only New Hampshire.
“When it comes to making policy to help students graduate college and make the most of their
lives, New Mexico gets it. Their policy work is testament to exactly what happens when you
implement Complete College America’s reforms and embed them in policy that is dedicated to
working for all students–increasing graduation rates, increasing enrollment driven from
retention, and more successful alumni,” said Charles Ansell, Vice President for Research,
Policy, and Advocacy at Complete College America. “New Mexico is a national exemplar in
moving beyond good intentions to policy actions that improve thousands of lives.”
With over 34,000 students receiving the Opportunity Scholarship this fall and over 10,000 on
the Lottery Scholarship, more New Mexicans are benefitting from tuition-free college than at
any time in state history.
New Mexico’s community colleges and branch campuses saw the largest growth with a six
percent average increase. Comprehensive four-year colleges grew enrollment by 4.7 percent and
research universities increased by 1.8 percent. Sector averages are listed below:
• Research Institutions: +1.8%
• Comprehensive Colleges: +4.7%
• Independent Community Colleges: +5.5%
• Branch Campuses: +6.7%
• Overall Total: +4.1%
The New Mexico Higher Education Department worked with public colleges and universities
earlier this year to develop strategic enrollment plans with the aim of growing the number of
new students enrolling and increase the number of students persisting and graduating. The
agency is hopeful that this year’s numbers are the start of a trend of more students enrolling in
higher education year after year.
Gov. Lujan Grisham first proposed the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship in 2019,
envisioning a scholarship program that would ensure New Mexicans could attend higher
education institutions tuition-free, and secured funding for the first iteration of the program in
the 2020 legislative session. In 2022 the governor signed the Opportunity Scholarship Act and
approved $75 million for the program, expanding tuition-free college to tens of thousands of
New Mexicans under the most expansive tuition promise program anywhere in the United
States. More than 45,000 Opportunity Scholarships have been awarded to date. The agency is
seeking $100 million for the program next year to ensure its continued ability to benefit
In addition to breaking down the barrier of tuition costs, Gov. Lujan Grisham has dedicated over
$6 million in targeted funds for programs that serve New Mexico’s changing student population.
These include programs aimed at addressing student food security, expanding campus mental
health resources, and increasing participation in the dual credit program among high school
students. The governor also directed $130 million in endowments to increase the number of
students enrolling in and graduating from workforce education programs in educator
preparation, nursing and social work.
For more information about the Opportunity and Lottery Scholarships and to explore college
and career training options, visit

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