SB 577 Financial Aid – Senate Bill 577 includes several provisions that eliminate or reduce funding for several financial aid programs managed under the State Student Assistance Commission. The bill eliminates funding for felony offenders seeking education, lowers tuition assistance amounts for children of disabled veterans, and allows funds to be transferred away from the Freedom of Choice grant fund to pay for the growing 21st Century Scholarship program.
Senator Luke Kenley, the bill’s author, delivered a PowerPoint Presentation during the committee hearing to explain current tuition assistance programs that would be affected by the bill.
On Feb. 7, Sen. Lindel Hume offered an amendment to strike the provisions that would protect the scholarship program for the children of disabled veterans as it is currently funded. The amendment was defeated on nearly party lines.
LISTEN: Sen. Hume defends the scholarship program for the children of disable veterans.
Quick summary of reductions made by the bill:
Children of Disabled Veterans Tuition Assistance:
- Reduces the amount of tuition assistance provided to children of disabled veterans from 100% to a sliding scale that awards assistance based on the level of the parent’s disability:
- 0% – 9% disability = 20% of tuition costs.
- 10% – 79% disability = 30% of tuition costs.
- 80% -100% disability = 100% of tuition costs.
- Approximately 73% of eligible children would receive less tuition under this change.
- Eliminates the option for children of disabled veterans to use tuition assistance to pay for post graduate degrees.
Tuition Assistance for inmates and prisoners:
- Transfers responsibility of providing financial assistance to felony offenders who are enrolled in a college degree program from the State Student Assistance Commission (SSACI) to the Department of Corrections (DOC).
- It is anticipated that no additional funds would be appropriated to DOC to accomodate this change, so financial assistance for prisoner’s education would effectively be eliminated.
Funding 21st Century Scholarships:
- Allows money from the Freedom of Choice (FOC) grant fund to be transferred to the higher education award fund (in order to pay for 21st Century Scholarships).
- Requires students to maintain a grade point average of 2.5 (instead of 2.0) in order to maintain eligibility for the 21st Century Scholar award.
- Requires 21st Century Scholars to participate in an intervention program while enrolled in secondary school.