A state scholarship program is expected to see a fourth consecutive year of declining enrollment, higher education officials said Thursday.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education expect 18,300 students to enroll in the Oklahoma's Promise scholarship program during the 2014-2015 academic year, a 5.2 percent decline from this year's enrollment.
That decline will continue a trend of falling enrollment in the program. The program has signed up fewer students each year since the 2010-2011 academic year, when enrollment peaked at 20,084.
Bryce Fair, the system's vice chancellor for state grants and scholarships, told the board Thursday the decline is due to a shrinking pool of students who meet the scholarship's income requirements.
Under the bill's current rules, eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders who apply for the scholarship must show that their families don't earn more than $50,000 a year. Students also must meet certain academic and behavior requirements to be eligible.
But that $50,000 income threshold, which is set by state statute, hasn't been adjusted for inflation, meaning fewer and fewer students meet the requirement. If the income cap were corrected for inflation, any student whose family earned less than about $66,500 a year would qualify, Fair said.
Fewer high school students have enrolled in the program in recent years, signaling a decline in the number of students who receive the scholarship once they reach college. According to State Regents records, the number of high school students enrolled is expected to drop to 9,600 in 2014, marking the first time since 2009 the total high school enrollment has dipped below 10,000.
During Thursday's meeting, the board approved the program's funding estimate for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The total estimate comes to $61 million, with $57 million coming from the general revenue fund and the remaining $4 million from the program's trust fund reserve.