A measure providing a permanent dedicated funding source for the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program was approved by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday and is headed for the floor of the Oklahoma State Senate.
“This bill will make certain that every student who qualifies for an Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship will receive it,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan, author of the measure. The legislation is part of the 2007 legislative agendas of the Senate Democrats’ and Governor Brad Henry.
Senate Bill 820 requires the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to certify the amount needed to fund the program in the coming fiscal year each November. The funds would then be set aside when the State Board of Equalization meets in February.
The measure is patterned after the ROADS program passed by the Legislature in 2006 to boost highway maintenance funding. Unlike the ROADS program, however, Oklahoma’s Promise funding is not limited to revenue from personal income tax. Oklahoma’s Promise funding will simply come from state general revenue, further ensuring that funds will always be available to pay for the scholarships.
Oklahoma’s Promise, originally known as the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program, provides scholarships for students who complete a specific college-preparatory curriculum, make good grades and stay out of trouble. Students, whose family income is $50,000 or less, can sign up for the program in the 8th, 9th or 10th grades.
The program began in the early 1990s and has been incredibly successful. Nearly 15,000 students are currently enrolled at Oklahoma colleges and universities on Oklahoma’s Promise scholarships. The program’s annual cost has grown to nearly $40 million is projected to reach nearly $60 million by Fiscal Year 2009.
“These students take personal responsibility for their future. They make a promise to the state that they will prepare themselves for college and the state, in turn, promises to provide them with a college education. This legislation will ensure that the state keeps its end of the bargain,” Morgan said.