Oklahoma’s Promise Could Become Oklahoma’s Maybe

By Audery DePre

Oklahoma’s Promise, also known as Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) is in for a wild ride! Three pieces of legislation have the potential to put OHLAP through a series of loops and whirls.Current requirements of OK Promise state that families of eighth, ninth and 10th grade students can make no more than $50,000 when the student initially qualifies for the program and no more than $100,000 at the time he or she enters college.

The first piece of legislation, cited as House Bill (HB) 1721, authored by Rep. Leslie Osborn, Mustang, Okla., and Sen. AJ Griffin, Guthrie, Okla., changes the language of the current law by lowering the second income evaluation of $100,000 to $75,000 before a scholarship recipient enters college. Rep. Lee Denney filed a floor amendment to be considered which sets the second income evaluation at $60,000. This would make a student ineligible for the OK Promise scholarship award if their parents had an Average Gross Income (AGI) greater than $60,000 at the time the student entered post-secondary school. The legislation was approved by a vote of 56-37 by the Oklahoma House of Representatives on March 25, 2013. House Bill 1721 advanced to the state senate for consideration during the next session.

“I fully support the idea of hard-working students of low-income families receiving a scholarship from the state to achieve their educational goals,” said Osborn in a press release dated March 25. “That said, our current law does not restrict the program to low-income families. Children of families earning $100,000 a year are currently able to receive this scholarship. We are lowering that threshold so that the scholarship is entirely directed to low-income families.”

The second piece of legislation that affects the OKPromise, cited as HB 1770, authored by Rep. Todd Russ, Cordell, Okla., and Sen. Don Barrington, Lawton, Okla. The bill would allow students to use certain CareerTech courses to be used to satisfy the OKPromise high school curriculum requirements. The legislation was also heard in committee on March 25, 2013. The bill passed through the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a unanimous vote of 94-0.

The final piece of legislation affecting OKPromise, cited as Senate Bill (SB) 399, authored by Sen. Tom Ivester, Sayre, Okla., and Rep. David Perryman, Chickasha, Okla. The legislation creates an exception for students in the 11th and 12th grade to sign up for the OKPromise scholarship program if their parent or guardian passes away.These changes would affect graduating high school seniors seeking post-secondary education in the fall semester of 2014. It appears Oklahoma’s promise could become Oklahoma’s maybe for some people.