House Bill 1821 is now heading back to the House for final approval after passage from the Senate on Thursday. The measure, authored by Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, and Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, would modify the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG) program to ensure more Oklahoma students can afford higher learning options.
“Currently, OTAG is awarded directly to low-income students on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis,” said Pemberton, Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman and Education Committee Vice Chairman. “However, this system doesn’t take into account any other financial aid opportunities a student has received, like scholarships, Oklahoma’s Promise, Pell Grants or tuition waivers. The changes made by House Bill 1821 would make this a more equitable system that goes to those with the most need.”
Under the measure, priorities for participation would be based on factors including full-time or part-time enrollment status, unmet financial need, continuous enrollment, nearness to completion of a degree or certificate, state employment needs and eligibility for other state and institutional student financial aid.
“This measure gives the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education more flexibility in awarding these scholarships so students that are closer to graduation, for instance, or who will be filling roles in high-demand fields, as another example, might be prioritized,” said McBride, House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman.
If signed into law, the measure would become effective on Nov. 1, 2021.