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FARMINGTON — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation that opens the lottery scholarship to students attending tribal colleges in New Mexico.

Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 407 on March 14.

The bill broadens the eligibility of students who receive the scholarship to include those pursuing higher education at a tribal college accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Students will be eligible to receive $1,020 each semester. The criteria to qualify includes being a full-time student who graduated from a public or accredited private high school in the state.

The student also has to successfully complete their first semester with a 2.5 GPA or higher.

There are four tribal colleges in the state, the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint and Diné College, which operates campuses in Shiprock and Crownpoint.

The fourth tribal college – Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque –stated it will not participate in the scholarship program due to being operated and funded by the Bureau of Indian Education, according to the fiscal impact report for the legislation.

The new law goes into effect on July 1.

The president of a tribal college located in northwest New Mexico applauded state legislators and the governor's decision, citing it increases opportunities for students.

"By making college more accessible, this scholarship is not just making a difference in the lives of students who qualify, but also in the economy of the Navajo Nation and state," Diné College President Charles "Monty" Roessel said.

State Sen. Benny Shendo Jr., D-Bernalillo, McKinley, Rio Arriba, San Juan and Sandoval, sponsored the bill.

It passed the Senate on Feb. 26 and the House of Representatives backed the measure on March 10.

There are 25 public colleges and universities in the state that qualify to receive legislative lottery scholarship fund as of February, according to the New Mexico Lottery website.

A similar proposal by state Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Cibola and McKinley, passed the House but failed to reach the full Senate before the legislative session ended on March 16.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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