FARMINGTON — Area high schools saw a fluctuation in scholarship dollars offered to graduating seniors this school year as more students attend in-state colleges and fewer enroll in the military.
Piedra Vista High School in Farmington and Aztec High School experienced drops in the amount of scholarship dollars offered to graduating students. Piedra Vista saw about a $4.4 million decrease and Aztec High about $6.3 million.
Aztec high School counselor Dorene Bohannon said this year about $2 million in scholarship dollars were offered to the 185 graduating seniors compared to $8.3 million last year.
"We didn't have students get the GI Bill this year so that cut our scholarship dollars down significantly," Bohannon said. "Normally we have quite a few kids that enlist."
About 8 percent of graduates from last year's graduating class of 188 students enlisted in the military.
Bohannon said Aztec High saw a drop in the number of seniors applying to out-of-state colleges while more applied to New Mexico colleges.
Natalie Stark, Piedra Vista Financial Aid and College Entrance counselor, said graduating seniors there also applied to fewer schools outside of New Mexico, which has a big effect on scholarship dollars offered.
This year's amount of $6.2 million is down from last year's amount of $10.6 million.
In the 2011-2012 school year the figure was about $6.6 million, Stark said. The generally higher tuition rates for out of state colleges drive the scholarship figures higher, she said.
Students are also becoming concerned about piling up debt from student loans, Stark said.
"We have a lot more students stay local or in the state of New Mexico and not choosing to go out of state if they have to borrow a lot of money," she said. "The students are really looking at it like, 'I could go to New Mexico Tech and get an outstanding degree in engineering and leave with hardly any student debt.'"
Ted Booker, Bloomfield High School Counselor, said the school does not track the amount of scholarship dollars but has seen a trend in the last couple of years where Bloomfield High graduates favor San Juan College over other college due to the changes in the economy.
"It's affecting where they are going to school," Booker said. "They usually want to move on to somewhere else and save themselves thousands of bucks."
Kim Coufal, Farmington High School's Financial Aid and College Entrance counselor, said this year's figure increased about $2.4 million to $5.5 million from last year's $3.1 million.
"I knew last year that this year's seniors would be a great class who would accomplish great things," Coufal said. "They were in my office a lot last year, making sure they were on track for college and scholarships."
Central Consolidated School District spokesman James Preminger said Shiprock High School seniors were offered $1.5 million in scholarships this year and Kirtland Central High School students were offered $2.7 million.
Piedra Vista senior Monica Manuelito said winning the Gates Millennium Scholarship will allow her to attend Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. She said she is still in shock over her selection.
"I opened (the package) and immediately started crying," Manuelito said. "It's still shocking and it doesn't feel real. It's a tremendous honor."
The Gates Millennium Scholarship helps the cost of tuition, fees, books and living expenses. The scholarship will help Manuelito enter the pre-medical studies program as she wants to become a cardiologist.
Four San Juan County students including Manuelito were awarded the scholarship this year.
According to a press release, Kirtland Central High School senior Jessica Brown and two students from Navajo Preparatory School, Brandi Reano and Lauren Etticty, were also awarded the scholarships.