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      New Mexico Lottery wins big bucks for higher education

      P owerball, Mega-Million, scratch offs -- all ways you could be earning a little extra cash. But if you play the lottery in New Mexico, you aren't the only one "winning".

      "Since being started in 1996, our players have helped raise $500 million for education and so many students have been able to go to college that without these scholarships from the lottery ticket sales just might otherwise not have been able to go," said New Mexico Lottery Spokesperson, Linda Hamlin.

      In 2011, the New Mexico Lottery saw it's second highest revenue year to date . $41.3 million were raised by players of the lottery and then used to help pay the tuition of students going to college in-state.

      All students need to be eligible for the Lottery Scholarship Program is to be a New Mexico resident, graduate from a public New Mexico high school and then maintain at least a 2.5 GPA in college.

      Pronews 7 spoke with several students attending Eastern New Mexico University who receive the Lottery Scholarship. The tuition money they earn from the scholarship, they said, is one of the reasons they've been able to attend college and will hopefully graduate debt-free.

      "I wanted to go to Texas before and two weeks before graduation I decided to stay in-state and so I think that was the best decision I've made in my college career," said ENMU Senior, Kaylee Peterson. "Knowing if I would've gone to Texas I would have had student loans."

      "It pays for my tuition for school and I've kept it and will hopefully keep it," laughed ENMU Sophomore Kyle Sundheimer. "It really is a big help. I mean we have to keep our GPA up so it's also a good motivator to keep my GPA up."

      "I won't have that burden when I graduate to pay off loans," added ENMU Senior, Sarah Sutton. "I can pay off my school now and get it done with so when I graduate, I can just go into my field and I can make money instead of having to pay money."

      Sometimes, even the students get involved in helping the state, help them.

      "Every time I play I realize it since I have the lottery scholarship, I'm basically helping my scholarship out and I know I'm helping other kids our for the state to help them get the chance to go to college and actually get an education," said Sundheimer.

      Now everyone -- New Mexico residents, college students, lottery players -- can all feel like "winners".

      "When they buy a lottery ticket, the whole state wins," said Hamlin. "You're creating more jobs, more businesses, creating a better economic environment that everyone can benefit from."