New Mexico teens may turn down free college if it's funded by Big Oil

Ah, what are the future Extinction Rebellion members in New Mexico supposed to do? Teens who consider themselves to be climate activists are now on the horns of a dilemma. After Democrats managed to flip the state blue in the last elections, their new liberal governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, began pushing through all sorts of proposals. In addition to gun control and marijuana decriminalization, Grisham decided that all of the students in the state should get a free education at both two and four-year state colleges. What’s not to like, right?

Well, according to some teen activists, there’s still a problem. You see, over the past nine years, the fracking boom in New Mexico has turned it into the third largest oil and gas producer in the country, behind only Texas and Alaska. And taxes from all of that energy production have left the state fat with cash to spend on things like public education. That’s how Grisham is able to float plans like the free tuition scheme. But some of these students think it would be hypocritical to take the free money if it’s got oil and gas stains on it. (NBC News)

Proponents of the bill say it would be a boon for a state with one of the nation’s highest poverty rates and some of the country’s worst-performing public schools. But critics, and some students like [Jonathon Juarez-Alonzo] – who stands to benefit from tuition-free college – see a conflict at the core of the governor’s plan: free college would be funded largely through revenue from the state’s ongoing oil and gas boom.

“We’re not saying we don’t want or we don’t support free public education,” Jonathon said. “But it’s like we’re in a hostage situation where we have to choose free public education or a livable planet in the future.”

Another student, fifteen-year-old climate activist Emese Nagy, of Albuquerque, was similarly conflicted.

“I’ve gone to public school and I’ve seen how bad our education is and how much funding we require,” she said. “But I don’t think it’s worth it.”

Even though the Democrats have taken control of both the legislature and the governor’s mansion, the complaints of the climate activists are falling on deaf ears. Recently, State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez introduced a bill that would have placed a moratorium of four years on all fracking activity so they could “study the situation.” It never even came up for a vote.

The fact is that New Mexico is currently doing financially better than the state has in ages. And it’s almost entirely due to revolutionary new technology in the oil and gas exploration market. They’re getting literally 32% of all their tax revenue from the fossil fuel industry. If they shut that off (the way New York State has), all of these programs the Democrats are using to give away free goodies will go up in smoke. And a little thing like “saving the planet” can’t be allowed to get in the way of that.

Of course, there’s a solution available to all of these students that addresses all of the problems above. Just don’t take the money. Surely there is a way to opt out of the program and insist on paying the tuition. And if not, go to a private college. Or go to one out of state that doesn’t offer free tuition. You have a variety of choices.

Now, run along home and tell your parents that you need $100K they weren’t planning on spending. And do come back and let us know how it goes.