State Sen. Kenneth Corn has filed legislation to create Oklahoma’s “Second Century Promise.” The program will target students who currently do not qualify for Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program, formerly known as OHLAP.
“There are three words I use to describe Second Century Promise—hope, change and opportunity,” said Corn, D-Poteau. “This is a fundamental change in how we develop an educated work force. It will provide hope to kids who may not feel college is an option because of the cost, and it’s an opportunity for Oklahoma to leapfrog our surrounding states by increasing the number of college graduates. This will help attract high paying jobs, grow our economy and ultimately improve the quality of life for our entire state.”
Since first unveiling the concept last year, Corn has met with people in all areas of higher education, common education, legislators from both parties as well as business and community leaders who have each given input to help fine-tune the proposal.
“The initial feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive and we received some very constructive suggestions about how to improve the plan. That process has resulted in the creation of Senate bill 2020, Oklahoma’s Second Century Promise, which I believe is the most important piece of legislation we will consider in the 2008 session.”
SB 2020 includes several key provisions, including:
Raising the family income limit for Oklahoma’s Promise from $50,000 to $80,000.
All students would be required to enroll in Oklahoma’s Promise, unless parents opt out.
The program will be phased in to include students who have not enrolled in Oklahoma’s Promise by providing a two-year scholarship to any student who graduates from high school beginning with the 2008-09 school year through 2012-13. During that time period, any student meeting family income requirements and graduating with a minimum 2.0 grade point average, or any home-school or GED student scoring at least a 19 on the ACT, will be eligible for tuition and fees at a two-year college or career-tech. They would also have the option to attend a four-year institution, and would receive a scholarship equal to the average tuition and fees charged at two-year institutions.
The program will not cover any remedial courses.
“Beginning in 2014, high school students who do not achieve the required 2.5 GPA to qualify for the Oklahoma Promise four-year scholarship would still be eligible for a two-year scholarship if their GPA is at least 2.0,” Corn explained. “Furthermore, if they keep their GPA above 2.5 in their first two years of college, they’ll be eligible for Oklahoma Promise scholarships for the final two years. It’s what I call a second chance provision, but they must have enrolled in the program and completed all other requirements.”
Corn said his own experiences as a child strengthened his determination to ensure all Oklahoma students have the opportunity to attend college.
“When I was in the sixth-grade, I entered an essay contest for a full college scholarship. I won, but I had to keep my grades up through junior high and high school to keep it. My parents didn’t have the resources to send me to college, but the scholarship changed everything. Because I had that chance, I worked hard in school and it has made all the difference in my life,” Corn said. “I want every child in Oklahoma to have that kind of hope and that opportunity.”
Corn said if approved by the legislature and Gov. Brad Henry, his legislation would take effect during the 2009-2010 school year.