Lawmakers should be cautious with move to change Oklahoma's Promise

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: March 6, 2013
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IF we reached back into history and made a list of legislation that proved itself visionary, the creation of the Oklahoma's Promise college scholarship program would rank somewhere near the top. So it's difficult not to get a little antsy when lawmakers start talking — as they do most every year — about tinkering with the program.

One such effort this year is Rep. Leslie Osborn's bill to reduce the number of students who qualify for the program. House Bill 1721 passed the House this week but still must get past the Senate. Here's the first question senators should ask: What's the rush?

Since 2003, more than 136,000 Oklahoma students have attended college or another post-secondary education program with the help of a state-funded scholarship. Students have three years after high school to start college; the scholarships are good for up to five years of undergraduate tuition at an Oklahoma college or university or qualifying public technology center.

Students can sign up for Oklahoma's Promise in eighth, ninth or 10th grades if their family's annual income is $50,000 or less. To remain eligible for a scholarship, students must take college-preparatory classes and stay out of trouble.

A few years ago, lawmakers added new requirements in effect for the first time this school year. The changes include a second income check as students enter college and higher GPA requirements in college courses. If the family annual income of an otherwise qualified student hits $100,000 before the student starts college, the student is no longer eligible for a scholarship.

The changes are too new to fully grasp the impact. Doing more tinkering before understanding the fallout of the changes just implemented seems unwise.

The bill by Osborn, R-Mustang, supposes the $100,000 amount is too high, and the House-approved version cuts it to $60,000; Much of the House discussion focused on the $100,000 instead of the fact that $50,000 remains the initial qualification. We doubt many people double their salaries over a few years' time.

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