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NEWS

October 6, 2008

Sen. Burrage Named to Task Force on Oklahoma's Promise

Sen. Sean Burrage, a member of the Rogers State University Foundation Board of Directors, is serving on a statewide task force established to examine Oklahoma's Promise, a state-funded scholarship program that provides free tuition to qualifying Oklahoma high school graduates.

This fall, nearly 500 RSU students have qualified for more than $500,000 in aid through Oklahoma's Promise, also known as the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program.

Burrage, D-Claremore, was appointed to the task force by Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan. He will serve with 10 other appointees including Rep. Tad Jones, R-Claremore, who was appointed by Chris Benge, Speaker of the House.

Chancellor Glen Johnson, of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, will chair the task force. Members include Sen. John Ford, Rep. Randy Terrill, Dr. Charles Bruce, senior director of scholarships and financial aid, Oklahoma State University; Nancy Moats, director of financial aid, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma; Myrna Cross, director of financial aid, Western Oklahoma State College; Jonna Raney, director of student financial services, Oklahoma Baptist University; State Superintendent Sandy Garrett; and Dr. Phil Berkenbile, director of career and technology education.

The task force will meet several times between now and the end of the year.

According to the legislation authored by Sen. Jonathan Nichols, the task force will conduct a comprehensive review of the Oklahoma's Promise family income requirements and the requirements for maintaining eligibility for the program in college. The task force is required to submit a report to the governor, Senate president pro tempore and House speaker by Dec. 31.

Currently, Oklahoma's Promise awards are based on a flat family income standard of $50,000 per household. Qualifying students must sign up for the program while in grades eight, nine or 10. The task force is charged with reviewing the definition of income with consideration of family size, inflation, number of children in college and lesser benefits for families whose income moderately exceeds the limits.

The report is expected to include findings and recommendations for any statutory changes necessary to improve the equity, effectiveness and stability of the scholarship program.

Although it failed to be passed this legislative session, Burrage authored a plan to raise the Oklahoma's Promise income ceiling to $75,000, which would have allowed more Oklahoma students to participate and attend college.

"Investing in higher education means we are building a brighter future for our children," Burrage said. "When Oklahoma students have an opportunity to pursue a university education and succeed in the classroom, we all win.”

Oklahoma legislators increased funding for Oklahoma's Promise for the 2008-09 school year and passed a new law providing for a permanent guarantee that the program will be fully funded each year. The State Legislature allocated $54 million for scholarship costs in 2008-09, serving as many as 19,000 students, an increase of $5.9 million over the prior year's funding.

For more information on Oklahoma's Promise, visit www.okhighered.org/ohlap.