Regents tell lawmakers to stop creating new scholarships

Saturday, December 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ State lawmakers should not create any new scholarships until current financial aid programs are adequately funded for the future, state regents said.

At its monthly meeting Friday in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted to recommend the Legislature issue a moratorium on new financial aid programs.

The regents hand out $30 million annually in state-supported financial aid and scholarships. Four years from now, regents project they'll need $52 million to honor the state's financial aid commitments.

The Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program, which provides five years of tuition to a public college or university, will need $16 million more than it currently gets, said Bryce Fair, assistant vice chancellor for state grants and scholarships for the state regents.

To qualify for OHLAP, high school students' families must earn no more than $50,000 and the student must maintain a 2.5 grade point average, complete 17 core courses and comply with conduct standards.

Sophomores, freshmen and eighth-graders may apply for the scholarships.

Participation in the program has increased six consecutive years and the numbers continue to climb, Fair said.

Chancellor Hans Brisch said regents must honor contractual agreements with those students before lawmakers add more financial aid programs.

Regents voted to endorse the recommendations of a Legislative task force created to study the issue. The task force suggested the moratorium and asked lawmakers to consider rescinding the Oklahoma Tuition Scholarship Program.

That program _ to be implemented in 2003 _ would award scholarships to students who meet certain academic requirements and whose family income is less than $70,000.

In other business, the regents voted to establish a new scholarship program as part of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot and Reconciliation Act of 2001.

The Tulsa Reconciliation Education and Scholarship Program will award at least 300 scholarships annually to Tulsa students. The projected annual cost is about $450,000 but supporters are trying to raise private funds, Brisch said.