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Oil, Natural Gas Revenue Fuels New Free-College Program in New Mexico

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Continued revenue boosts from New Mexico’s growing oil and natural gas sector will allow students to earn four-year college degrees for free under a plan announced this week by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The “New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship” will apply to all 29 of the state’s colleges and universities and help more than 55,000 students earn a degree for free. It covers tuition and associated fees in full at four-year universities for high school students. It also applies to recent graduates and adults returning to college at two-year schools.

This achievement would not be possible without revenue from oil and natural gas production in the the state, which has increased exponentially since 2000. The New York Times reported that New Mexico “plans to use climbing revenues from oil production to pay for much of the [scholarship’s] costs”.

New Mexico Oil and Gas Association Executive Director Ryan Flynn highlighted the industry’s positive impact on education in the state:

“Big, bold ideas like this are the type (of) transformational opportunities New Mexico now has because of the success and growth of the oil and natural gas industry. This is a great example of how the Governor can leverage increased oil and natural gas production to the benefit of all New Mexicans regardless of where they live, work, or go to school.”

While free college tuition will deliver huge contributions to the economy and workforce, it’s not alone among oil and gas production’s education benefits in New Mexico. As NMOGA previously reported:

Oil and natural gas production accounts for nearly a third of all revenue going into New Mexico’s general fund –  $2.2 billion in FY2018 … Last fiscal year, these contributions from oil and gas resulted in $822,300,441 in funding to public k-12 schools, according to NMOGA’s report, which notes this dollar figure could cover the salaries of 11,496 teachers, or pay for 11,747,153 textbooks.

In addition to education, oil and natural gas production puts money in New Mexicans’ pockets. The average household saved more than $1,100 in taxes last year thanks to activity on state trust lands, most of which came from oil and natural gas operations, according to a report from the Consumer Energy Alliance.

The victories don’t stop there. New Mexico legislators are on track to once again have record-breaking amounts of cash to spend on infrastructure, education, and health care in this year’s legislative session. “The future looks good for New Mexico,” said the late Sen. Carlos Cisneros in a recent Albuquerque Journal article.

This game-changing Opportunity Scholarship is just the latest example of how oil and natural gas production is propelling New Mexico into the future.

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