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NM Legislature & Proposed Changes for College Students

By: Sharna Johnson

Loan assistance for minority doctoral students in engineering, science or math fields, drastic changes to the Lottery Scholarship, college transfer credits and hazing laws are among issues currently being considered by the New Mexico Legislature.
The 2017 Regular Session runs from January 17 to March 18, with legislators under a deadline of February 16 to propose legislation.  Less than a month in, hundreds of pieces of legislation have already been introduced and – from introduction to committee where they either die or move forward to a vote – are in various stages of moving through the state’s law-making body.
Working in a heated political environment and under threat of state financial crisis, New Mexico lawmakers must tackle several critical issues this year, not the least of which include an already-passed series of budget solvency bills to address budget deficits.
Other hot topics include proposed recreational marijuana, the right-to-die, parental notification of abortions, hemp research and background checks for private gun transactions, to name a few.
In addition to legislation reflecting state and national issues, however, are some bills that specifically impact college students:

SB 276 Lottery Scholarship Awards & Applications:
This bill, sponsored by Sen. John M. Sapien, D-Corrales, amends the Legislative Lottery Tuition Scholarship Act and is scheduled for review by the Senate Education Committee February 10.
Currently available to all students who graduated from high school or received high school equivalency in New Mexico, under the proposed changes, students would be required to apply for the Lottery Scholarship. Also, rather than the current system of funding 90 percent of a New Mexico student’s tuition, the Lottery Scholarship would pay varying maximum tuition scholarships based on the number of program semesters a student has received the scholarship. For example, a student at a community college would receive 60 percent their first two and 100 percent their third semester, while students at comprehensive and research institutions would receive 40 percent their first semester, 50 percent the second and third, 80 percent the fourth and 100 percent in the fifth, sixth and seventh semesters.
The proposal attempts to address a reduction in the Lottery Scholarship fund which is anticipated a reduction of tuition coverage from the current 90 percent, to 70 percent or less in the 2018 funding year. Research institutions argue the formula favors community colleges and opponents also assert that requiring students to apply for the scholarship places poor and first-generation college students at a disadvantage.
HB 194, “Lottery Scholarship Full & Need Based”; HB 237 “Liquor Tax to Lottery Scholarship Fund”; HB 344, “Lottery Scholarship Full & Need Based”; SB 188 “Disabilities Students Lottery Scholarships”; and SB 192 “Transfer of Lottery Funds”, are other bills currently in the legislature which propose amendments to the Lottery Tuition Scholarship.
Click to read more or track SB 276

SB 103 Transfer of College Credits:
Designed to assist college students, particularly transfer students, in fulfilling graduation requirements, this bill sponsored by Sen. Gaye Kernan, R-Hobbs, would amend the Post-Secondary Education Articulation Act.
In addition to changing the definition of “articulation of credits” to “a transfer of courses to fulfill graduation requirements”, the bill removes the requirement that the general education core have at least 35 credit hours.
Under the proposed amendment, the Higher Education Department would be required to develop a statewide general education core curriculum of not less than 15-24 credit hours for an associate degree or 30 hours for a bachelor’s degree including lower-division courses that provide a liberal education. All courses included in the general education core would be required to be transferable and to fulfill general education requirements wherever they are transferred.
Click to read more or track SB 103

SB 197 Loan Repayment for Certain Students:
This Act, proposed by Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, repeals portions of an existing program, revising it to broaden its applicability and allow greater discretion to the Higher Education Department regarding student need and qualification. It has cleared the Senate Education Committee and is now under review by the Senate Finance Committee.
The original Minority Doctoral Loan for Service program was designed to increase the number of minority or female faculty in specific fields at New Mexico’s public postsecondary institutions. Students who have successfully completed a doctoral degree program at an eligible institution in the fields of engineering, physical or life sciences or mathematics and have been hired to a full-time, tenured position at a New Mexico public postsecondary institution can receive loan repayment assistance from the Higher Education Department.
According to the Higher Education Department, the current program requires students and institutions to make employment commitments prior to a student completing their doctoral degree, which is extremely difficult because most students must complete post-doctoral work in their field before they are qualified for faculty positions. Only five candidates are enrolled in the program for the 2017 funding year.
Click to read more or track SB 197

HB 200 Anti-Hazing Act:
Introduced by Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, the Anti-Hazing Act boasts 14 sponsors in the House and is currently located in the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee.
Under the proposal, the act of hazing would become a misdemeanor, subject to up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. Knowingly participating, aiding or assisting in hazing resulting in death would become a fourth degree felony, punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment.
Hazing, as defined by the act, is requiring a student or other person to perform any act for the purpose of induction or admission into or continued good standing in groups, organizations, teams or societies associated with an educational institution.
The act prohibits any activity that, “recklessly or intentionally endangers the health of a student or other person, including requiring the consumption of food, yelling, humiliating, harassing, belittling, cursing, sleep deprivation, forced calisthenics, drug or alcohol use, striking, beating, paddling, slapping, blindfolding, pushing or maiming; threatening to require sleep deprivation, forced calisthenics or drug or alcohol use; threatening to strike, beat, paddle, slap, blindfold, push or maim; or requiring any morally degrading, illegal or indecent action.”
Click to read more or track HB 200

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California First in Nation to Enact “Yes Means Yes” Law

California Governor Jerry Brown signed bill SB-967 on Sunday which requires “affirmative consent” to sexual activity on college campuses statewide. The bill goes on to define affirmative consent as “conscious, voluntary… and ongoing throughout sexual activity,” and revokes acceptance of “passive consent” forms such as silence, intoxication, past sexual relations between the parties involved, and inability to communicate. The bill, which adds Section 67386 to the state’s Education Code, further requires postsecondary educational facilities in California to adopt “detailed and victim-centered policies and protocols” regarding all forms of sexual and domestic assault.

Critics of the bill claim that it is overreaching, unclear in its definitions, and values the rights of accusers over those of the accused. Gordon Finley, an adviser for the National Coalition of Men, pleaded for Gov. Brown to leave the bill unsigned, calling it a “campus rape crusade bill.” Proponents of the bill, on the other hand, point to its educational and proactive language. One UCLA student said of the bill, “It’s going to educate an entire new generation of students on what consent is and what consent is not… that the absence of a no is not a yes.”

Although SB-967 has its detractors in the editorial pages and among men’s rights activism groups, there was no opposition to the bill in the California Senate.

Story by Sara Krafft.