New Mexico Governor Michelle Luzan Grisham has successfully signed Senate Bill 140 earlier this spring. Also known as the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act, SB 140 removes tuition as a barrier for New Mexican students attending public higher education institutions in the state. Basically, any New Mexican student who joins any in-state tribal or public institution may have their tuition waived if they meet the minimum credit hour and grade point average requirements. While, to varying degrees, other states, such as California, North Carolina and Texas, are in the news for considering and enforcing tuition waivers for certain groups of students, New Mexico law provides a way for students to be compared to students in other states.
While it may be tempting to see a new landscape of public higher education in New Mexico in a single case of alignment between political will and adequate resources, we think these developments should resonate with the ongoing focus on student loan cancellation and stimulate a larger, national. , A visionary conversation about tuition-free access to higher education. Towards supporting specific areas of focus in that conversation, we draw our running scholarship lines to consider some compelling reasons why other states should pursue similar outcomes to tuition-free higher education.
First, the prohibition of tuition combines the high cost and existing income-related credit system that can be called a structural contributing injustice when these policies or other structures undermine the ability to participate and form knowledge in a given learning community.
Think of it this way: Every day, individuals use a set of knowledge and understanding learned from others to navigate the world. Although everyone navigates the world with knowledge learned from those around them, privileged listeners often dismiss or ignore knowledge gathered from marginalized people in society, instead of favoring their own set of biased knowledge. In such cases, marginal speakers feel what the philosopher Christy Dotson called contributing injustice, or a violation of the speaker’s ability to create and share knowledge resources with others.
But the case that Dotson has identified exists not only at the individual level, but also as a structural problem. In this case, prohibitively higher education and income-related loans similarly reduce the ability of marginalized students to participate (and share their knowledge resources) in on-campus learning communities. This injustice occurs in a way that exacerbates the existing persecution across multiple levels of identity, but for now we will highlight one of the most obvious and most deadly forms: the loss of black students and families. In the short term, these barriers impose a significant financial burden on black students through loans, which reduce their tendency to enter post-secondary education and how they participate in it. A 2018 report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce noted that “black and Latino students are about half as likely to receive a bachelor’s degree as whites.” And those who enroll are taking out hunter loans that are stable and make economic decisions throughout adulthood.
In the long run, the impact of these policies on student diversity affects faculty diversity. As of 2018, three of the four full-time faculties nationwide were white, contributing to the cognitive exclusion system and interaction within the academy, or the endless devaluation and dismissal of color faculty research. If higher education is a valuable institution of knowledge creation for a more accurate understanding of our shared world and creates the resources of knowledge to work better in it, then our nation should solve these problems. For this reason, tuition-free higher education initiatives should be considered as potential remedies for permanent, structural, knowledge-based defects.
In addition to the above knowledge-based considerations, news of New Mexico law that allows tuition-free public higher education should also encourage attention to democracy-based reasons for similar bills in other states. We offer three invitations for productive discussions.
First, we encourage a public conversation about the idea that access to higher education is a meaningful resource for navigating an increasingly complex civic environment. To be clear, we are not claiming that access to higher education is a necessary prerequisite for citizen participation or that the value of a person’s citizen participation is determined by their level of education. Instead, we would like to note that higher education is often negotiated to provide resources in the way that citizens look together for their civic work. To the extent that this is true, even the slightest or slightest, restrictive higher education represents a wage for a public form of civic preparation in our democracy.
Second, we believe that national discourse on higher education should be considered as a barrier to what is sometimes called the “expressive” value of these principles. That is, what does a particular tuition policy reveal about the people affected by it? What values or priorities are communicated to the population? Who, according to the priorities of our state, deserves to be educated by our human resources? If the answer to the next question is probably “those who can afford it,” then states may have reason to reconsider their attitudes and commitments toward their citizens. Arguably, our democracy should communicate about the value and worth of the people within it, regardless of their financial resources. In a statement on SB140, Luzan summed up Grisham’s remarks, stating that “the signing of this law sends a clear message to New Mexicans that we believe in them and that they will contribute to their families and the future of our great state.”
Third, we note that taking tuition-free higher education is a matter of democracy where there is a growing explicit order from citizens. Recent polls show that nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults are in favor of tuition-free higher education. Opposition to tuition-free higher education tends to be concentrated mostly (albeit not exclusively) among those who are relatively well-off. The wishes of a relatively small and privileged group should not limit access to higher education for a growing portion of their civic peers. One of us argued in part of a recently published book, Ethics in higher education (Harvard University Press, 2021), when confronted with a preference for the advancement of tuition-free public higher education, the democratic will of the people, among whom there is the greatest influence, should be instructed to take action.
Looking to the front
Clarifying the ethical aspects of this policy framework – taking into account our shared knowledge and its impact on the democratic system as well as the real and serious consequences for individuals – emphasizes the need for greater access to post-secondary education. The policy options before us are not perfect, nor will they achieve the degree of full access that justice can demand. While there are many reasons for us to be overwhelmed by the fact that the SB 140 is widely available to New Mexico residents, it is only funded for one year and requires more funding for a truly tuition-free higher education system. So far, many sociologists and economists have argued that free public college methods and student loan cancellation methods seem to be the available policy options that best advance the ethical goals outlined above. As members of higher education institutions, each of us has a role to play মধ্যে in the hard work of many other community organizers and political actors অনুসরণ to pursue access and possibilities for creating a truly open campus for all.