The Senate Education Committee approved legislation Tuesday to modify the financial qualifications of the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP). Senator Corey Brooks, the principal author of Senate Bill 137, said the bill fixes a problem with the state’s tuition reimbursement program that has been unfairly keeping some students from qualifying for it.
Currently, in order to qualify for the scholarship program, a student’s family income, both taxable and nontaxable, cannot exceed $50,000 per year. Brooks’ bill would allow the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to review cases where a family’s income includes nontaxable military benefits or federal Social Security Administration payments due to the death or disability of one or both parents. If the family’s income is found to be less than $50,000 excluding those benefits, the student will be eligible for the OHLAP program.
“The OHLAP scholarship program has helped over 60,000 Oklahoma students go to college who might not have been able to afford it otherwise,” said Brooks, R-Washington. “This bill will ensure that those students whose families receive military benefits or Social Security disability are provided special consideration so they aren’t unfairly excluded from the tuition assistance program.”
According to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, more than 17,000 students had earned degrees under Oklahoma’s Promise at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.
SB 137 will next be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.