Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211

02/11/2009 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
08:03:34 AM Start
08:03:41 AM SB33
08:36:03 AM Overview: Bring the Kids Home
09:06:18 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Overview: Alaska Mental Health Trust,
Bring the Kids Home Program
               SB  33-POSTSECONDARY SCHOLARSHIPS                                                                            
8:03:41 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELTON announced consideration of SB 33.                                                                                   
8:04:08 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS moved to adopt Amendment 1.                                                                                     
CHAIR ELTON explained that Amendment  1 inserts the words "or the                                                               
United States  Department of  Education" on page  3, line  31; it                                                               
has the effect of expanding  eligibility to institutions that are                                                               
not covered under the current language in the bill.                                                                             
8:05:06 AM                                                                                                                    
NICK  MOE,  aid  to  Senator   Ellis,  said  they  proposed  this                                                               
amendment  because it  was  not  their intent  to  leave out  any                                                               
vocational,  postsecondary institutions  in  Alaska; by  choosing                                                               
only one accreditation  they were leaving out  the Career Academy                                                               
and  the Alaska  Vocational/Technical Center  in Seward.  Senator                                                               
Ellis  feels   strongly  that  vocational  schools   are  a  very                                                               
important part of  education in Alaska and should  be included in                                                               
this scholarship grant.                                                                                                         
SENATOR OLSON  asked if private vocational/technical  schools are                                                               
included as well.                                                                                                               
MR.  MOE   responded  that   if  the   schools  come   under  the                                                               
accreditation of the United States  Department of Education, they                                                               
are included.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  OLSON  queried,  "So  you  don't  know  if  the  private                                                               
institutions are indeed covered at this time?"                                                                                  
MR. MOE  said the current list  contains the names of  all of the                                                               
institutions   legislative   research    provided   to   him   as                                                               
institutions included  in the grant;  he believes that  no others                                                               
are included at this time.                                                                                                      
SENATOR DAVIS asked if the Career  Academy, which is on the list,                                                               
is  considered  private.  If  so,   she  suggested  they  make  a                                                               
clarifying change in the language.                                                                                              
8:07:49 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELTON  asked Diane  Barrans if she  knows whether  the list                                                               
that was  passed out  to the  committee is  a list  of additional                                                               
schools that will  qualify for the program [if  this amendment is                                                               
adopted]   rather    than   a    comprehensive   list    of   the                                                               
vocational/technical institutions that are eligible.                                                                            
DIANE   BARRANS,  Executive   Director,   Alaska  Commission   on                                                               
Postsecondary  Education,  Juneau, AK,  said  the  effect of  the                                                               
change  is  to  include   non-collegiate  programs.  The  current                                                               
language specifies  an accreditor that doesn't  recognize certain                                                               
nationally  accredited types  of schools;  so by  referencing the                                                               
U.S.  Department   of  Education  approval,  the   amendment  has                                                               
broadened the  scope to include those  one-year training programs                                                               
regardless of whether they are public or private.                                                                               
CHAIR ELTON asked  how many students they are  adding by adopting                                                               
this amendment.                                                                                                                 
MS. BARRANS said she doesn't  expect it to substantially increase                                                               
the  pool. About  90 percent  of  students in  Alaska attend  the                                                               
University  of Alaska  and are  already included;  enrollments at                                                               
Seward are rarely  above 300 and the Career  Academy probably has                                                               
similar enrollment,  so even if  all of those  students qualified                                                               
it would not represent a substantial expansion.                                                                                 
8:10:03 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON asked  how that increase would  affect the existing                                                               
$25 million fiscal note.                                                                                                        
MR. MOE said they currently  have no appropriations to this fund;                                                               
the bill just creates the  endowment. The fiscal note only gauges                                                               
the resources  that would be  required to  manage a fund  of that                                                               
8:11:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS joined the meeting.                                                                                             
8:11:17 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  ELTON  advised Senator  Huggins  of  the motion  to  adopt                                                               
Amendment 1 and  directed him to the list  of additional eligible                                                               
institutions, which is included in his packet.                                                                                  
8:11:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELTON asked if there  were any objections to the amendment;                                                               
there being none, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                                      
CHAIR  ELTON  thanked   Mr.  Moe  and  Ms.   Barrans  for  making                                                               
themselves  available today  and said  he would  like to  move to                                                               
discussion of the full bill at this time.                                                                                       
8:12:47 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS  opined that the state  has not done a  great job                                                               
of  helping those  students  with financial  need;  he asked  Ms.                                                               
Barrans  to explain,  in general  terms, how  this helps  address                                                               
that problem.                                                                                                                   
MS. BARRANS said  what she sees as most  advantageous, should the                                                               
endowment be funded,  is the ability to  communicate to students,                                                               
especially at-risk students, early  in their education that there                                                               
is a source of funds available  to them. One of the problems with                                                               
the current  needs-based program, which is  very modestly funded,                                                               
is that  the funding source  is not dependable;  the year-to-year                                                               
structure makes it  difficult for them to use it  as an incentive                                                               
for junior high students.                                                                                                       
CHAIR ELTON  said he assumes this  program is an addition  to the                                                               
Alaska  scholars  program,  for  which the  top  ten  percent  of                                                               
graduating students are eligible as  they enter the University of                                                               
Alaska. He asked  if that is correct and if  so, how that affects                                                               
the determination of need.                                                                                                      
8:15:42 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MOE answered  that there is a UA scholars  program, but there                                                               
are students  who achieve  a high grade  point average  and still                                                               
fall into  the gap between  getting into the UA  scholars program                                                               
and qualifying for financial aid such  as the Pell Grant or other                                                               
scholarships;  this complements  those  programs.  This bill  not                                                               
only requires  students to show  a certain level  of achievement,                                                               
but at least  $4000 of unmet financial need.  His statistics show                                                               
that the  average annual  tuition in  the University  [of Alaska]                                                               
system is around  $12,000; so even if students save  all of their                                                               
[Permanent Fund]  dividends, apply for  all of the  financial aid                                                               
they can get and are doing very  well in school, there is a large                                                               
SENATOR  STEVENS felt  that students  might be  embarrassed by  a                                                               
public recognition  of their financial  need when  presented with                                                               
the scholarship  and asked  if the presentation  could be  made a                                                               
little more palatable.                                                                                                          
MR. MOE  appreciated his concern  but said he doesn't  think many                                                               
college students  are shy about  receiving money for  their unmet                                                               
financial need.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR STEVENS said  he would still like to make  that aspect of                                                               
it less obvious.                                                                                                                
8:18:55 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  BARRANS  noted  for  the record  that,  under  the  proposed                                                               
language,  the commission  does  have the  ability to  promulgate                                                               
regulations. It  would be their  intent that this grant  will not                                                               
displace  other  non-loan aid;  so  if  students have  sufficient                                                               
scholarships to eliminate the gap  between their non-loan aid and                                                               
the  cost  of education  without  this  program, they  would  not                                                               
qualify. The University of Alaska  student leadership feels it is                                                               
important that students invest in  their own education; so it was                                                               
their suggestion  that a  student should have  at least  $4000 in                                                               
unmet need.                                                                                                                     
8:20:11 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS  asked  how  the   scholarship  appears  to  the                                                               
MS.  BARRANS   said  students   receive  notification   from  the                                                               
institution through their financial  letter of award of financial                                                               
aid. She  is not sure whether  it will be called  the Alaska ACES                                                               
Award or  Alaska Ice Award, but  the award would appear  in their                                                               
financial  aid letter.  She added  that it  will be  important to                                                               
emphasize  the  academic  achievement  aspect  of  the  award  to                                                               
students,  because  they  will  have  to  continue  to  meet  the                                                               
academic qualification each year.                                                                                               
8:21:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  ELTON   asked  Ms.  Barrans   to  explain  what   kind  of                                                               
performance standard students will  have to demonstrate once they                                                               
get into college.                                                                                                               
MR. MOE read on page 2, line 24 that a student must have                                                                        
"achieved a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher on a                                                                
scale of 4.0, or the equivalent at the school in which the                                                                      
applicant is currently enrolled;" so the student must                                                                           
demonstrate achievement of a B average or better while getting                                                                  
the scholarship and must graduate within five years.                                                                            
8:23:11 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELTON  questioned the  language "or  the equivalent  at the                                                               
school where the applicant is  currently enrolled." He asked if a                                                               
student who  is not  making the required  grade point  average at                                                               
one school  could transfer to  another school and  re-qualify for                                                               
the scholarship.                                                                                                                
MR.  MOE said  the  student would  probably  have to  demonstrate                                                               
achievement of a 3.0 at the  first school. He thinks the language                                                               
was crafted in this way to  accommodate those schools that do not                                                               
have a traditional grading system.                                                                                              
CHAIR ELTON questioned whether a  student who wants to transition                                                               
from a  smaller school  to UAF would  be precluded  from applying                                                               
for the scholarship for the next year at the new school.                                                                        
MS. BARRANS  clarified that the financial  aid professionals have                                                               
to be  able to certify that  students qualify with a  3.0 GPA; so                                                               
they would have to attend for  two terms and establish a two term                                                               
GPA in order to be  certified according to standard financial aid                                                               
practices;  a student  can transfer  credits, but  not the  grade                                                               
point that accompanied them.                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELTON asked  if striking the words "at the  school in which                                                               
the applicant  is currently enrolled"  on page 2, line  26, would                                                               
solve the problem.                                                                                                              
8:26:25 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. BARRANS asked  if the presumption is that the  student had an                                                               
eligible GPA at the prior school.                                                                                               
CHAIR ELTON said  he was confused; he thought she  just said that                                                               
the credits would transfer but not the GPA.                                                                                     
MS. BARRANS  agreed, but said  if they strike that  language, the                                                               
new school could  "reference" the qualifying GPA  at the previous                                                               
school  so  there   would  not  be  a  break   in  the  student's                                                               
CHAIR  ELTON  asked whether  the  institution  or the  commission                                                               
certifies the previous GPA.                                                                                                     
MS.  BARRANS   explained  that  efficiencies  in   financial  aid                                                               
administration  are   created  by   a  partnership   between  the                                                               
commission and the institutions.  The commission does not collect                                                               
or  review  transcripts;  they  rely on  an  agreement  with  the                                                               
financial aid  office at the  institution to certify all  of that                                                               
8:28:16 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS thought  part of the problem might be  the use of                                                               
the term "enrolled,"  which means the student has  filled out the                                                               
paperwork and been accepted, but may not be taking classes yet.                                                                 
CHAIR ELTON asked if the  definition of "qualifying postsecondary                                                               
institution" on page 3, line  29 would preclude an Alaska student                                                               
who  wants to  participate in  the WWAMI  program from  getting a                                                               
MS.  BARRANS  said   she  believes  this  program   is  only  for                                                               
undergraduate study, but she does  not see that limitation in the                                                               
language;  so  Alaska   WWAMI  would  be  covered   even  if  the                                                               
institution the student is attending is outside the state.                                                                      
8:29:55 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MOE  disagreed. He said  he does not believe  WWAMI qualifies                                                               
because  this  program  is only  for  postsecondary  institutions                                                               
within the state of Alaska.                                                                                                     
SENATOR  OLSON said  that under  the WWAMI  program, students  do                                                               
complete some of  their work in Alaska and as  expensive as it is                                                               
to attend medical school, it would  be a help if this could apply                                                               
to those students.                                                                                                              
8:30:44 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MOE said those students  will qualify for their undergraduate                                                               
work in Alaska, but not when they transfer to a school outside.                                                                 
SENATOR OLSON asked  for verification of whether this  is only an                                                               
undergraduate program.                                                                                                          
MR.  MOE said  he can't  answer  the senator's  question at  this                                                               
time, but will get back to him with that information.                                                                           
SENATOR  DAVIS was  concerned about  the 3.0  qualifying GPA  and                                                               
said she would like to see  it changed to 2.5 (C+), especially if                                                               
students have  to wait two  semesters before they  qualify. There                                                               
isn't enough  funding out there,  she said, and if  the committee                                                               
wants  to  encourage more  kids  to  go  to school,  they  should                                                               
consider lowering that.                                                                                                         
CHAIR ELTON said he was going to close discussion on the bill                                                                   
for this time and suggested that members be prepared to discuss                                                                 
the GPA and undergraduate issues when he brings it back. He also                                                                
directed Ms. Barrans to page 2, line 22 and said it would be                                                                    
helpful to know what the parameters are for the Free Application                                                                
for Federal Student Aid and about the reference on page 4, line                                                                 
3 to 20 U.S.C. 1070c-2.                                                                                                         
8:34:17 AM                                                                                                                    
Chair Elton set SB 33 aside.                                                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
BTKH EDUC Leg Presentation FINAL 0209.ppt SEDC 2/11/2009 8:00:00 AM