The Senate passed a bill Tuesday to provide the State Regents of Higher Education more flexibility when deciding students’ eligibility for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP). Sen. Corey Brooks is the author of Senate Bill 137, which would direct the Regents to create an appeals process for students denied OHLAP because of their families’ special financial situations.

 

“The purpose of the OHLAP program is to help provide free tuition to any Oklahoma student who wants to get a college degree and meets the qualifications. However, many students have been denied the scholarship because of their parent’s Social Security disability payments or nontaxable military pay including combat pay, hazardous duty pay and active duty basic allowance for housing benefits among other payments,” said Brooks, R-Washington. “This bill will allow the Regents to review these special cases to ensure that the state isn’t keeping someone who truly has a financial need from getting a degree.”

 

Currently, in order to qualify for OHLAP, a family’s taxable and nontaxable income cannot exceed $50,000 annually. SB 137 would allow the Regents to review cases where a family’s income includes nontaxable military benefits or federal Social Security Administration payments due to the death or disability of one or both parents. If the family’s income is found to be less than $50,000 excluding those benefits, the student will be eligible for the OHLAP program.

 

SB 137 will now go to the House for further consideration.