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December 1, 2005 :: Continued Funding Imperative for Expanding State Scholarship Program

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Enrollment in a popular state scholarship program that allows high school students from low-to-middle income families to earn free college tuition is continuing to rise as are the costs to keep the program going, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education learned today.

More than 57,000 students from nearly 550 different high schools representing all 77 counties have enrolled in the Oklahoma’s Promise-Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) since its inception in 1992, State Regents were told. That total includes more than 48,000 students who have enrolled since 2000, the year state lawmakers raised the scholarship’s family income limit from $32,000 to $50,000. Last year, more than 9,200 10th graders enrolled in the program, an increase of about 1,100 students from the previous year.

Higher education officials also project scholarship expenses could increase by more than $10 million to $37 million for 2006-07. In addition, the number of scholarship recipients is projected to rise to almost 18,000 students by 2008-09, costing the state anywhere from $44 million to $59 million a year, depending on enrollment, the number of completers and tuition rates.

“Oklahoma’s Promise-OHLAP plays a very important role in the State Regents’ goal of increasing the number of college graduates in Oklahoma, which will help attract more higher-paying jobs to our state,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “Our legislators and governor have demonstrated a commitment to adequately fund the program every year, and we are confident that they will continue that commitment for many years to come.”

Meanwhile, State Regents say they are hopeful that state lawmakers will soon find a permanent and stable revenue source to fund Oklahoma’s Promise-OHLAP. Without a dedicated revenue stream, students could be denied a scholarship that was promised to them when they signed up for the program.

“It would be a shame if well-deserving and eligible students were ever denied an Oklahoma’s Promise-OHLAP scholarship due to lack of funding. Our state must have more college graduates, and this program is a piece of the puzzle that will help get us there. We’re already seeing some positive results. It is definitely a worthy investment for our state,” State Regents’ Chairman Cheryl Hunter said.

Hunter noted that students enrolled in Oklahoma’s Promise-OHLAP tend to have above-average high school grade point averages, ACT scores and college-going rates, as well as above-average college persistence and degree completion rates. They also require less remediation in college.

To earn an Oklahoma’s Promise-OHLAP scholarship, students must sign up for the program in the eighth, ninth or 10th grade, meet the family income requirement, attend classes regularly, complete homework assignments, achieve a minimum 2.5 (C+) grade point average in 17 core courses and earn at least a 2.5 GPA for all courses in ninth through 12th grade. In addition, students must refrain from drug and alcohol abuse and delinquent acts.

The scholarship is good for up to five years at any Oklahoma public college or university. It will also cover a portion of the tuition at an accredited private institution or for select courses at public technology centers.

For more information on Oklahoma’s Promise-OHLAP, call 1.800.858.1840 or visit the Oklahoma’s Promise-OHLAP Web site at www.okpromise.org.