Proposed Change to Oklahoma’s Promise Scholarship Program Would Increase Stakes For Students | New
OKLAHOMA CITY – The president of Northern Oklahoma College has said that a state bill adding more conditions to scholars in the Oklahoma graduate scholarship program would have a “chilling effect” on the future workforce. work of the State.
Cheryl Evans, who oversees the NOC’s three campuses in Alva, Stillwater and Enid, said she was concerned that Senate Bill 639 would result in fewer parents wanting their students to enroll in Oklahoma’s Promise program. and pursue an already expensive higher education.
This reluctance, Evans said, could have a long-term negative impact on the state’s workforce.
“I would say most (of higher education students) have skin in the game,” but have other obligations, she told State Representative Denise Crosswhite Hader. during Enid’s day at the Capitol Forum on Tuesday. “It’s a whole different world for students now. Because you cannot control the circumstances in your life.
Created in 1992, the Oklahoma Higher Education Access Program, or Oklahoma’s Promise, pays a student’s tuition at a public university in Oklahoma, over two or four years, or a portion of the tuition at an accredited private university or public school of technology.
Corn SB 639, written by Senator Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, would change the program and require OKPromise students to repay remaining funds if they do not graduate within six years of entering university. The change would come into effect during the 2021-2022 school year.
Payments determined by a higher education institution or vocational school would flow back to the state’s OKPromise trust fund balance to reward prospective students.
A student could only take courses beyond six years under “difficult circumstances” as determined by the Oklahoma Board of Regents for Higher Education, which administers the program.
Pugh, the chairman of the state’s Senate Education Committee, said he hoped his bill would change the program’s graduation rates, which are the fourth lowest in the country.
The bill was passed by the Senate on March 11 by a 36-9 vote and is now awaiting a hearing by the House Higher Education and Careers Committee.
Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont, and his regional colleague, Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, both appeared reluctant to oppose the bill during the annual forum with Enid executives in Oklahoma City.
Crosswhite Hader said the bill would be an added incentive for OKPromise students to graduate, while Caldwell said he would propose to “maybe change (the bill) a bit”, but don’t did not go into details.
“I hope we can maybe soften that stick a bit,” Caldwell said, “that we can find other ways to encourage people to take advantage of a good program, but to continue their education so that we don’t spend millions of dollars on unfinished degrees.
Senator Roland Pederson, R-Burlington, voted for the bill.
“I think at some point you have to take responsibility for what you’re doing… and I think if you start a process you’d be foolish not to finish it,” Pederson said later Tuesday.
According to the program, 53% of OKPromise students in 2019-2020 graduated, compared to 43% of non-program students in Oklahoma during the same 10-year period.
That year, 15,347 Oklahoma students received the scholarship for a total annual amount of $ 66.7 million.
Students are eligible for the scholarship program if they are residents of Oklahoma and come from families that report a federal gross income of no more than $ 55,000 per year, among other requirements, and enroll in the program in eighth, ninth grade. or 10th grade.
To receive tuition coverage after graduation, students must complete 17 units of high school courses and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA for those courses and all courses in Grades 9-12. If they are in homeschooling, they should receive at least a score of 22 on their ACT.
An OKPromise student currently has three years from the date of graduation to enroll in post-secondary courses and can receive rewards for up to five years after enrollment.
Kim Collins, an Enid High School advisor, helps students apply for other scholarships before their final year in school, a requirement of the OKPromise program. Michaela Goulart, a first year counselor at Enid High School, primarily helps ninth and tenth graders enroll in the program.
With the bill potentially amending the OKPromise program, Collins said she would be worried about advising already nervous students about the loans they need to be more serious about college because they have to pay it back.
“If you come from a family that didn’t tend to go to college, you already walk into a setting like this wondering if you’re up to it,” she said, “Then being told the stakes are even higher, he starts to feel like he’s playing.
The high school was unable to host an enrollment party this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Collins said, but she was hopeful that a party would happen next year.
Students already using money from the program, like EHS graduate Anthony Carranza, would not be required to repay their money if they don’t graduate in six years.
But Carranza said the bill could deny the only students eligible for the program, about to start college in the fall – high school students from a low economy class who couldn’t afford to pay without the program. state aid in the first place.
“It’s kind of misleading when it’s like, ‘Oklahoma Promise.’ It’s like the state is supposed to be supporting you, but if something happens, ‘Oops, there’s that money,’ ”said Carranza, a freshman at Oklahoma Private Christian University. “I don’t know. It’s a tough cookie.