Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: July 8, 2015
Gov. Mary Fallin held a ceremonial signing of SB 137 recently and
was joined by the
bill’s author, Sen. Corey Brooks (R-Washington), as well as
Dillon, Dustin and Dana Stanley,
Melanie Wilkins and Kermit R. McMurry, Ph.D. Vice Chancellor-
Student Services Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education.
New OHLAP qualifications will help more
Oklahoma students attend college
More Oklahoma students will be able to qualify
for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) and attend
college thanks to a new law that went into effect July 1. Sen. Corey
Brooks was the principal author of Senate Bill 137, which allows
the State Regents for Higher Education to review cases where a family’s
income includes nontaxable military benefits or federal Social Security
payments due to the death or disability of one or both parents.
“This program was created to ensure that all Oklahoma students
who are serious about pursuing higher education get that opportunity
if they meet certain financial and academic requirements. Unfortunately,
we discovered last year that some students have been unfairly denied
access to the program because of their families’ military
or Social Security benefits stemming from the death or disability
of one or both of their parents,” said Brooks, R-Washington.
The issue in the income evaluation system was brought to light by
Duncan residents, Dennis and Dana Stanley, whose oldest son, Dillon,
was denied access to the program in 2011 because of his father’s
social security disability payments. Dennis was diagnosed with a
brain tumor in 2005 that left him unable to care for himself. Due
to various treatments for the brain tumor (including surgeries,
radiation and chemotherapy), he is in a nursing home and requires
round-the-clock care. His social security disability payments put
the family over the program’s $50,000 annual family income
eligibility level when their oldest son applied for the OHLAP scholarship.
Their family is relieved that the bill was signed into law and said
their youngest son, Dustin, who will graduate from high school in
2018, will be applying for the scholarship this fall.
“We are extremely excited that Senate Bill 137 was approved
and signed into law this year. We’re very thankful for Senator
Brook’s dedication and hard work in addressing this oversight,
and for Governor Fallin signing the bill,” said Dana. “This
will help our family tremendously, and I know that there are many
other families that will benefit from this as well. It is an incredible
gift and we are beyond grateful.”
Prior to passage of SB 137, in order to qualify for OHLAP, a student’s
family income, both taxable and nontaxable, could not exceed $50,000
per year. Brooks’ bill allows the Oklahoma State Regents for
Higher Education to review cases involving special financial situations
such as nontaxable military and Social Security payments. 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.
“I’m so grateful to the Stanley family for making me
aware of this unfortunate oversight in the scholarship program.
Unfortunately, their oldest wasn’t able to qualify and has
had to go well above and beyond the effort common to the vast majority
of students in order to pay for his college education but because
of his parents’ determination, his brother can apply for the
scholarship,” said Brooks. “I’m pleased that the
legislature took swift action in passing this legislation, and grateful
for Governor Fallin’s support as well, so that we could fulfill
the state’s promise to help more Oklahoma students get their
education and pursue their dreams.”
According to the State Regents, there are currently more than 18,000
Oklahoma students receiving the OHLAP scholarship.
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