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University of Central Oklahoma student keeps his promise

Oklahoma's Promise scholarship covers college tuition for students who meet economic and academic criteria. For many like the University of Central Oklahoma's Jas'Sen Stoner, it makes the dream of college a reality.
by Kathryn McNutt Modified: January 21, 2014 at 4:00 pm •  Published: January 21, 2014

— Family history and income didn't point to college for Jas'Sen Stoner.

But his teachers asked him to make that promise when he was in eighth grade, and today he's a sophomore industrial safety major at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Stoner is one of about 62,000 students who have earned the Oklahoma's Promise scholarship in the past two decades.

The program is doing more than paying his college tuition. It's giving him a chance “to make it out and become something better,” he said.

“It's hard to find a way out of poverty,” Stoner said. “It gives people like me a chance to take a swing at being successful.”

Since the Legislature established the program in 1992, nearly 133,000 students have signed up, and about 72,000 have qualified for the scholarship, according to records from the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.

But the pool of eligible students is shrinking.

The scholarship is for families with incomes of $50,000 or less at the time the student applies for the program and not more than $100,000 at the time the student begins college.

Because the $50,000 family income limit isn't adjusted for inflation, the number of students enrolling in the program is expected to gradually decline, higher education officials say.

The U.S. Census Bureau shows 61 percent of Oklahoma families had a total income less than $50,000 in 2000, compared with 45 percent in 2012.

Making a difference

Oklahoma's Promise tops the list of programs making a difference in education statewide, said Glen Johnson, the state's higher education chancellor.

Compared with other students, the scholarship recipients have higher high school GPAs, higher ACT scores, higher freshman college GPAs and higher college graduation rates, Johnson said.

And 92 percent of those who graduate from college have jobs in the state one year out, compared with 87 percent of other graduates, he said.

“It has changed the landscape,” Johnson said.

The promise works both ways.

Students promise to prepare academically for college and stay out of trouble.

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by Kathryn McNutt
Higher Education Reporter
Kathryn McNutt covers higher education for The Oklahoman and NewsOK. Since joining the staff in August 2000, she also has worked as the Breaking News editor, Metro editor and assistant Local editor. A native of Oklahoma City, she graduated from...
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