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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

For Immediate Release: February 9, 2007

Senator Sean Burrage
Senator Sean Burrage

Burrage Sees OHLAP as Key to Economic Development Opportunities in Oklahoma

Freshman Senator Files Legislation to Increase Income Limits to $75,000

When others in the Legislature are trying to make it harder for Oklahoma high schools students to obtain a college education, a freshman Senator from Claremore wants to increase access, calling it “vital” to the economic growth for the state.

“We should do more to make higher education a greater possibility for all Oklahoma students who want to further their education,” Senator Burrage said. “Access to a higher education should not be determined by the size of a bank account, rather it should be determined on a child’s ability and eagerness to learn.”

He explained currently through the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), also called Oklahoma’s Promise, thousands of Oklahoma students who might not otherwise be able to afford college, are offered scholarships if they agree to make good grades on a college prep curriculum, stay out of trouble and meet certain income requirements. Burrage filed Senate Bill 530, a measure aimed at increasing the income eligibility for OHLAP from $50,000 to $75,000. The bill, if passed, would make close to 75 percent of high school students eligible for Oklahoma’s Promise.

“States that produce and attract talented people have an advantage when competing in today’s global economy,” Burrage said. “Through programs like OHLAP, Oklahoma is quickly gaining an economic development edge over other states.”

The lawmaker said in his senate district, which includes Rogers and Mayes Counties, an extension in OHLAP would mean children from more middle class families could have better access to Rogers State University and Northeast Technology Center.

“Northeastern Oklahoma is growing at a rapid pace because of institutes of higher learning like RSU and the technology centers,” he said. “Making OHLAP available to more students would increase enrollment at these schools and help us continue growing an educated workforce in Northeastern Oklahoma.”

Burrage said results of a recent project in Kalamazoo, Michigan called the “Kalamazoo Promise” where every student who makes good grades, stays out of trouble and graduates from Kalamazoo Public School system receives a four-year tuition free scholarship to continue their higher education, proves the direct connection between investments in education and economic growth.

“Since the project in Michigan began in 2005, the housing market in Kalamazoo is booming and property value is increasing,” Burrage said. “Think of the economic boom we could have in cities across Oklahoma if we made OHLAP available to more students. Economic development begins with investing first in education and quite frankly it’s simply the best investment we can make for a brighter future for all Oklahomans.”

Burrage said he also wants to find a permanent funding source for OHLAP and hopes the Legislature works to find common ground on the issue.

“Oklahoma’s Promise needs a permanent funding source so that each year every child who is eligible doesn’t have to worry if the funding will be available,” he said. “We ensure the future of Oklahoma by this investment, and there is no reason why finding a permanent revenue source for OHLAP shouldn’t be among our top priorities this legislative session.”

“In a political environment such as the State Capitol building where consensus is often times hard to find, surely we can agree the economic success of our state through access to a higher education for students from more Oklahoma families is worthy of an open, honest debate.” Burrage concluded.

For more information contact:
Senator Burrage's Office - (405) 521-5555

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