State helps New Mexicans navigate tuition-free college with new website

Stephanie Montoya

ReachHigherNM.com helps students explore scholarships, apply for college, and more 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Higher Education Department have launched a new tool to help all New Mexico students and families access tuition-free college. 

ReachHigherNM.com is a one-stop resource that guides New Mexicans to learn more about the New Mexico Opportunity and Lottery Scholarships, search and apply to public colleges and universities, and helps students maximize scholarship opportunities.  

“Not only is college too expensive, but figuring out how to apply and get money for school is too complicated,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “Making college and career training tuition-free for New Mexicans through the Opportunity Scholarship was the first step, but my administration is going above and beyond to make sure that everyone who wants to pursue higher education has a clear path to the door.”  

“Starting the application process for college can be frustrating, especially for first-generation students and students who have been out of school for a while,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez said. “Governor Lujan Grisham’s administration is here to help students and families understand how they can benefit from the Opportunity and Lottery Scholarships, and to support them from day one by connecting them to the schools, programs, and resources they need. ReachHigherNM.com is setting New Mexicans up for success.” 

To receive the Opportunity and Lottery Scholarships and any other federal aid they may qualify for, New Mexicans can follow a simple three-step process – 1) apply to any public college or university in New Mexico, 2) complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and 3) enroll in the required number of credit hours at the participating school of their choice.   

Gov. Lujan Grisham signed the Opportunity Scholarship Act into law this March, establishing the most encompassing and accessible tuition-free college program in the country. Funded at $75 million, tens of thousands of students enrolled at New Mexico public colleges and universities have access to free college starting this Fall. Over 10,000 students have already benefitted from the Opportunity Scholarship since 2020.  

The Opportunity Scholarship covers tuition and fees for New Mexico residents enrolling part time or full time at a participating New Mexico school toward a career training certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree, regardless of when they finished high school. The scholarship also allows students to stack other scholarships and grants beyond tuition and fees to defray other college-related costs such as books and materials, housing, childcare, and transportation.  

Over the past ten years, New Mexico has added 10,000 new jobs with an average salary of $90,000 or higher, but the majority of these jobs require some level of education or training beyond high school. The Opportunity Scholarship will help fill critical workforce needs and help New Mexicans access rewarding careers with family-sustaining wages, right here in New Mexico.  

Prospective students can use the interactive eligibility tool at ReachHigherNM.com to determine which scholarship program they can potentially qualify for by answering a few short questions. They can also explore college options, contact their school’s financial aid office, or reach out to the New Mexico Higher Education Department for additional help.  

There is no separate application for the Opportunity and Lottery Scholarships. Students must simply apply to a participating public college or university and enroll in the required number of classes in an eligible certificate or degree program. Students are also urged to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to as FAFSA, and other scholarship opportunities to access additional funds they may be eligible to receive.  

“Many students and families get lost in the process of applying for higher education, as well as accessing financial aid opportunities. They become overwhelmed and oftentimes give up or wait until financial aid and scholarships deadlines have passed, limiting their choices and resources,” said Alexandra Kramer, counselor at V. Sue Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho. “ReachHigherNM.com is extremely user friendly and helps to solidify the requirements for individuals regarding both the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship and the Opportunity Scholarship. The step-by-step questionnaire is straightforward and easy to complete, and I appreciate the map with the colleges and universities participating, as well as the quick links to apply, complete the FAFSA and enroll. It really streamlines the process!” 

“This website provides a user-friendly space for students and parents to navigate through our state's new free tuition initiative as they are making their final decisions for their post-secondary education,” said Eloisa Sanchez, Santa Fe Public Schools GEAR UP Coordinator. The federally-funded GEAR UP college readiness program is administered by the New Mexico Higher Education Department and helps students at middle and high schools in communities across the state prepare for college and careers.

“ReachHigherNM.com is a great resource for those looking to pursue post-secondary education,” said Grace Tackman, Vice President of the New Mexico Educational Assistance Foundation. “This is a crucially-needed piece in helping future students determine their eligibility for our state scholarship programs.” The organization leads statewide outreach to high school students, parents, and counselors on state and federal scholarship and grant programs and how to navigate the college-going process.  

Students are encouraged to begin exploring their college options now and submit applications soon if they plan to attend school in the fall.  

For more information, visit www.ReachHigherNM.com or contact the New Mexico Higher Education Department’s Financial Aid Division at Fin.Aid@state.nm.us or 1-800-279-9777.