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Education

New Mexico approved free college and people are calling on all states to follow their lead

college university tuition new mexico

New Mexico has passed the most wide-ranging free college legislation of any U.S. state.

The student loan crisis that has been brewing for decades has reached a fever pitch in the U.S. The cost of college tuition has been on a steep upward trajectory since 1980, far outpacing wages and resulting in many student borrowers being buried in mountains of debt they have little chance of repaying.

In fact, many students end up not making a dent in their loans, even after paying on them for years. One report found that even among students who made voluntary payments to their Navient loans during the student loan payment freeze, 63% were "underwater," meaning they owe more on their loans than what they originally borrowed. Some even owe more than 150% of the original loan amount. And these are people who are actively trying to pay down their loans, making payments when they technically didn't even have to.

It's truly a crisis, which is why we saw such a push for student loan forgiveness being put on the agenda during the 2020 election. That hasn't happened, but at least one state is taking a big step toward mitigating the college debt problem.


New Mexico has passed a bill that makes all in-state public and tribal colleges—both 2-year and 4-year—free for all residents, as long as they enroll in at least six credits and maintain a GPA of 2.5. That means residents can take classes part-time or full-time without worrying about tuition.

The New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act, which Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law March 4, makes New Mexico the first state to waive tuition for all public colleges and universities, regardless of a family's income. Some states offer free community college programs and a handful of states have state-sponsored scholarships for some students at state universities. New Mexico has just upped the game, waiving tuition across the board.

And people are loving it.

The signing of the law was received as "good news" by those who advocate for affordable higher education.

​Some asked why all states or the federal government don't do the same.

It's not an unheard-of idea, by any means. More than a handful of countries in Europe and some in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia offer free college education.

In her speech given prior to signing the law, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham explained how the law will help provide flexibility and opportunity to people from all different backgrounds and circumstances and remove so many of the barriers that prevent people from getting the education they need or desire.

"College is too damn expensive," she said.

Indeed, it is. Congrats to New Mexico for this historic move to make higher education more accessible for everyone.

Watch Gov. Grisham speak at the 20:30 mark:

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