HOUSE BILL 58

55th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - second session, 2022

INTRODUCED BY

Joshua N. Hernandez

 

 

 

 

 

AN ACT

RELATING TO EDUCATION; ENACTING THE ADULT ONLINE LEARNER SCHOLARSHIP ACT; CREATING THE ADULT ONLINE LEARNER SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM IN THE HIGHER EDUCATION DEPARTMENT; PROVIDING POWERS AND DUTIES; FOCUSING THE PROGRAM ON NEW MEXICO-SPECIFIC CRITICAL WORKFORCE NEEDS; PROVIDING ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS; PROVIDING SCHOLARSHIP PRIORITIES; CREATING FUNDS; MAKING APPROPRIATIONS.

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:

     SECTION 1. [NEW MATERIAL] SHORT TITLE.--This act may be cited as the "Adult Online Learner Scholarship Act".

     SECTION 2. [NEW MATERIAL] DEFINITIONS.--As used in the Adult Online Learner Scholarship Act:

          A. "critical workforce need list" means the list of public- or private-sector professions and occupations for which New Mexico has a critical shortage of residents qualified to fill positions;

          B. "department" means the higher education department;

          C. "eligible institution" means a New Mexico public post-secondary educational institution or tribal college in New Mexico that offers online courses of instruction leading to a vocational certificate or an associate's, baccalaureate, master's or doctoral degree in a field of study that results in qualification in a profession or occupation on the critical workforce need list;

          D. "eligible student" means a New Mexico resident who:

                (1) is at least twenty-six years of age;

                (2) has not received a terminal certificate or degree in a profession or occupation on the critical workforce need list;

                (3) demonstrates financial need consistent with criteria promulgated by the department; and

                (4) is enrolled or enrolling at least half-time at an eligible institution in an online post-secondary degree program or vocational certificate program in a field of study on the critical workforce need list;

          E. "endowment fund" means the adult online learner endowment fund;

          F. "program" means the adult online learner scholarship program;

          G. "scholarship" means an adult online learner scholarship;

          H. "scholarship fund" means the adult online learner scholarship fund; and

          I. "tribal college" means a tribally, federally or congressionally chartered post-secondary educational institution located in New Mexico that is accredited by the north central association of colleges and schools.

     SECTION 3. [NEW MATERIAL] ADULT ONLINE LEARNER SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM--CREATED.--

          A. The "adult online learner scholarship program" is created in the department. The department shall administer the program and award scholarships to eligible students.

          B. The department shall promulgate rules in accordance with the State Rules Act to carry out the provisions of the Adult Online Learner Scholarship Act, including:

                (1) criteria for determining eligibility and initial and continued state residency, including provisions for military personnel;

                (2) criteria for determining financial need, including the use of the free application for federal student aid;

                (3) procedures and requirements for applications; and

                (4) priorities for allocating money in the scholarship fund to:

                     (a) students from rural areas;

                     (b) minority students;

                     (c) low-income students; and

                     (d) students who are the first in their immediate family to attend a higher education institution.

          C. The department, in conjunction with other cabinet departments, shall develop and update annually the critical workforce need list, which shall be posted on the department's website. State agencies shall cooperate with the department in developing and updating the list.

          D. If an eligible student begins a certificate or degree program that later is taken off the critical workforce need list, the department shall continue to provide the scholarship for that student who otherwise meets qualifications for the scholarship until the student receives the vocational certificate or graduates with the degree for which the scholarship was provided.

          E. A scholarship applicant shall demonstrate to the department that:

                (1) the student meets scholarship eligibility requirements; and

                (2) the total sum of the applicant's scholarships, financial aid from any other sources and personal contributions does not exceed the student's cost of tuition and fees at the student's eligible institution.

          F. For an eligible institution that measures advancement by semesters, each scholarship is for a period of one semester and may be renewed if the eligible student continues to qualify for the scholarship until the eligible student receives the vocational certificate or degree for which the scholarship was granted. An eligible student must maintain in-state residency and earn at least a 2.0 on a 4.0 grading system each semester for continued scholarship eligibility. An eligible student shall not receive more than a total of ten semesters of scholarships.

          G. For an eligible institution that measures advancement by competency, each scholarship is for a course the eligible student takes until the eligible student receives the vocational certificate or degree for which the scholarship is being granted. An eligible student must maintain in-state residency and demonstrate satisfactory progress toward achieving the competency-based certificate or degree.

          H. The department shall pay tuition and fees for each eligible student to the eligible institution for:

                (1) each semester for which the student qualifies for the scholarship if the eligible student attends an eligible institution that measures advancement by semesters; or

                (2) each course for which the eligible student qualifies for the scholarship if the eligible student attends an eligible institution that measures advancement by competency.

     SECTION 4. [NEW MATERIAL] TERMINATION OF SCHOLARSHIP.--A scholarship is terminated upon occurrence of one or more of the following:

          A. withdrawal of the eligible student from the eligible institution;

          B. failure of the eligible student to achieve satisfactory academic progress;

          C. failure by the eligible student to maintain New Mexico residency;

          D. substantial noncompliance by the eligible student with the Adult Online Learner Scholarship Act or the rules promulgated pursuant to that act; or

          E. the eligible student has not received a certificate or degree within the number of allowed scholarship semesters or, if applicable, not taken a competency-based course for more than six consecutive months.

     SECTION 5. [NEW MATERIAL] REPORTING.--The department shall report annually to the governor and appropriate legislative interim committees on the efficacy of the program. The report shall include:

          A. the number of scholarship recipients at each eligible institution;

          B. the average amount of scholarship awards by student and by eligible institution;

          C. program outcomes, including:

                (1) the number of certificates and degrees awarded during the year;

                (2) the number of graduates and certificate holders who:

                     (a) have remained in New Mexico;

                     (b) are employed; and

                     (c) are employed in their fields of study; and

                (3) the number of businesses that have benefited from the focus on post-secondary scholarships for adult learners and on critical New Mexico-specific workforce needs; and

          D. recommendations for program modifications and funding levels.

     SECTION 6. [NEW MATERIAL] FUNDS CREATED.--

          A. The "adult online learner endowment fund" is created as a nonreverting fund in the state treasury, consisting of appropriations; unrestricted gifts, grants and donations; and income from investment of the endowment fund except as provided in Subsection C of this section.

          B. The "adult online learner scholarship fund" is created as a nonreverting fund in the state treasury, consisting of appropriations; unrestricted gifts, grants and donations; and income from investment of the scholarship fund. Money in the scholarship fund is subject to appropriation by the legislature for scholarship awards. Expenditures from the scholarship fund shall be by warrant of the secretary of finance and administration pursuant to vouchers signed by the secretary of higher education or the secretary's authorized representative.

          C. Until fifty percent of the annual income from investment of the endowment fund is equal to or exceeds two million dollars ($2,000,000), an annual distribution of two million dollars ($2,000,000) shall be made from the endowment fund to the scholarship fund. Thereafter, until the corpus of the endowment fund is forty million dollars ($40,000,000), fifty percent of the income from investment of the endowment fund shall be applied to the corpus of the endowment fund and fifty percent shall be distributed annually to the scholarship fund. After the corpus of the endowment fund is forty million dollars ($40,000,000) or more, all of the income from investment of the endowment fund shall be distributed to the scholarship fund.

     SECTION 7. APPROPRIATION.--

          A. Five million dollars ($5,000,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the adult online learner endowment fund in fiscal year 2023 to endow the adult online learner scholarship program, and no portion of the appropriation shall revert to the general fund.

          B. Two million dollars ($2,000,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the adult online learner scholarship fund for expenditure in fiscal year 2023 and subsequent fiscal years to provide scholarships to eligible students. Any unexpended or unencumbered balance remaining at the end of a fiscal year shall not revert to the general fund.

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