Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/19/2010 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Moved CSSB 213(EDC) Out of Committee
               SB 224-POSTSECONDARY SCHOLARSHIPS                                                                            
8:28:11 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS  called the meeting  back to order  and announced                                                               
consideration of SB  224. He advised that  the administration had                                                               
proposed two  amendments to the  original bill, which  they would                                                               
discuss today.                                                                                                                  
8:29:34 AM                                                                                                                    
EDDY  JEANS, Director,  School  Finance  and Facilities  Section,                                                               
Department  of Education  and Early  Development (DEED),  Juneau,                                                               
Alaska,  affirmed  that these  amendments  were  drafted for  the                                                               
original bill,  so the line numbers  would have to be  revised if                                                               
the committee adopted the CS. He  advised that Amendment 1 has to                                                               
do with the grade-point average  and placing the lettering of the                                                               
tiers into  statute; it then  goes on  to define the  grade point                                                               
average (GPA) for each of the tiers.                                                                                            
8:30:20 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS questioned  what "average"  means when  the bill                                                               
states that students have to be above average. For example, a C-                                                                
plus  average tier  is less  than 3.0  but no  less than  2.5. He                                                               
asked  if  the administration  was  saying  C is  inadequate  and                                                               
wondered if they were stretching the truth.                                                                                     
MR. JEANS  answered that this  was based on a  4.0-grading scale,                                                               
and the  governor wanted the  lowest acceptable  tier to be  a C-                                                               
plus average.                                                                                                                   
8:31:53 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.   JEANS   said   the  second   amendment   offered   by   the                                                               
administration  was a  needs-based component  for the  Governor's                                                               
Performance Scholarship (GPS) program.  He explained that after a                                                               
student had  earned the  scholarship and  gone through  the FAFSA                                                               
process to  identify other grants or  scholarships available, the                                                               
Department  of Health  and Social  Services expected  the student                                                               
and family  to contribute at least  $2000 annually to his  or her                                                               
education  and  the  state  would  kick  in  50  percent  of  the                                                               
remaining unmet need.                                                                                                           
CO-CHAIR THOMAS said it was  his understanding that the chart Mr.                                                               
Jeans handed  out to the  committee shows approximately  how much                                                               
money that represents.                                                                                                          
MR. JEANS  agreed. He  said the chart  provides some  examples of                                                               
how the scholarship program would  pay out. The first example had                                                               
an  estimated  cost  of  $14,000 at  the  University  of  Alaska.                                                               
Assuming  a student  qualified for  the full  amount of  the Pell                                                               
Grant, which would  be roughly $5700, plus the  UA Scholars Award                                                               
of  $2750,  the highest  tier  under  the Governor's  Performance                                                               
Award would be $4755, leaving an  unmet need of $795. Because the                                                               
student must  pay at least  $2000 toward his education,  he would                                                               
not qualify for any additional  needs-based funds. If the student                                                               
attended  APU where  costs  are higher,  again  assuming that  he                                                               
qualified for the  Pell Grant, UA Scholars Award  and the highest                                                               
tier  under the  GPS, his  unmet need  would be  $14,045 and  the                                                               
state would pick up half of that.                                                                                               
8:35:41 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS  said  he  thought   the  unmet  financial  need                                                               
amendment made a  lot of sense. He asked if  the documentation to                                                               
arrive at the amount of unmet need was based on FAFSA.                                                                          
MR. JEANS replied it was.                                                                                                       
8:36:19 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER  questioned at what  income level the  FAFSA kicks                                                               
MR. JEANS said he would have to get back to the senator on that.                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS  asked if all  students are required  to complete                                                               
the FAFSA.                                                                                                                      
MR. JEANS confirmed that they are.                                                                                              
8:37:15 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER asked Mr. Jeans to explain the Pell Grant.                                                                       
MR. JEANS  explained that the  Pell is  a federal grant  for low-                                                               
income students and is based on family income.                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR  MEYER asked  if the  Pell Grant  is also  based on  the                                                               
MR. JEANS replied yes.                                                                                                          
CO-CHAIR  MEYER said  that  goes back  to  his original  question                                                               
regarding the income level at which the Pell Grant kicks in.                                                                    
MR.  JEANS reiterated  that he  would get  back to  the committee                                                               
with that  information. Based on information  provided by Senator                                                               
Thomas's staff  this morning, he  said he knew the  Department of                                                               
Health and Social  Services needed to do some work  to verify and                                                               
refine the numbers.                                                                                                             
8:39:10 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked where the family contribution comes in.                                                                   
MR.  JEANS responded  that  students must  cover  $2000 of  their                                                               
educational expenses, so  that amount comes off the  top of their                                                               
unmet need.                                                                                                                     
8:39:49 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER noted that the  state will contribute a maximum of                                                               
$3000 for vocational/technical school,  and asked why that amount                                                               
is different from the amount of the scholastic scholarship.                                                                     
MR.  JEANS  answered  that  there   are  actually  two  different                                                               
scholarships  in the  governor's GPS  bill; one  is the  academic                                                               
scholarship for  attendance at  a university and  the other  is a                                                               
career  and technical  scholarship for  attendance at  career and                                                               
technical  schools. He  added that  the Department  of Labor  and                                                               
Workforce Development (DOLWD) would publish  a list of career and                                                               
technical  schools that  have been  approved for  the scholarship                                                               
He  continued  to  say  the  curriculum  requirements  under  the                                                               
governor's  bill are  the  same for  both  scholarships, but  the                                                               
course  requirements  between them  are  a  little different.  He                                                               
noted that  the House  proposed an amendment  to allow  a student                                                               
under the career  and technical program to apply  for the maximum                                                               
dollar amount offered under the scholarship program.                                                                            
CO-CHAIR  MEYER said  he  would  like to  address  that as  well,                                                               
because  the   costs  for  a  vocational/technical   program  are                                                               
sometimes even higher than those at a university.                                                                               
8:42:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS said  he was still trying to get  his head around                                                               
remedial education.  He asked if  awards would ever  be available                                                               
to those students who come  from villages where the required math                                                               
and science classes are not even offered.                                                                                       
MR. JEANS said the governor's  GPS bill contains a provision that                                                               
allows a  student who  was not afforded  the opportunity  to take                                                               
the curriculum requirements  to apply to DEED  for an alternative                                                               
pathway, but  the student might have  to spend the first  year in                                                               
college on his  own dime meeting the core  course requirements or                                                               
taking courses over the summer at the university.                                                                               
SENATOR STEVENS  asked if  that would extend  the length  of time                                                               
the scholarship would be available to him.                                                                                      
MR. JEANS replied that the bill  did not address that. He thought                                                               
the  department would  address alternative  pathways through  the                                                               
regulatory process and that it  would make sense to give students                                                               
additional time.                                                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS  asked if some  of the remedial classes  would be                                                               
8:44:19 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. JEANS responded  that the intent is for students  to meet the                                                               
core   requirements  outlined   in   the  bill,   which  can   be                                                               
accomplished  through remedial  courses. He  emphasized that  the                                                               
department sees this  as a reform bill to put  pressure on school                                                               
districts to better prepare  students for postsecondary education                                                               
or  the work  force. It  is their  hope that  as it  evolves, the                                                               
university will be able to  reduce the number of remedial courses                                                               
it has to offer.                                                                                                                
8:45:20 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked Mr. Jeans to  go over page 2 of Amendment 2                                                               
again to clarify the definition of  "unmet need" and be sure that                                                               
(d)  of  the amendment  reflects  the  calculation shown  on  his                                                               
chart.  He read  from page  2, lines  7-9, "subtracting  from the                                                               
student's  allowable   standard  costs   of  attendance   at  the                                                               
institution all non-loan sources  of financial support, including                                                               
an expected family contribution".                                                                                               
8:46:21 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  JEANS said  the  $2000-student  contribution was  referenced                                                               
under item (c), lines 4-5.                                                                                                      
CO-CHAIR THOMAS resumed reading on  line 8, "all non-loan sources                                                               
of financial  support, including an expected  family contribution                                                               
and all federal, state, and  private". He ventured that "federal"                                                               
would refer  to the Pell  Grant, and  "state" to the  UA Scholars                                                               
Award and this scholarship.                                                                                                     
MR. JEANS said "state" refers to the GPS bill.                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR  THOMAS asked  if it  would also  refer to  the Scholars                                                               
MR. JEANS said  he is not sure whether that  falls under state or                                                               
under private scholarships and grants.                                                                                          
CO-CHAIR THOMAS  said he was  just advised that it  is considered                                                               
MR. JEANS said it is operated  by the University of Alaska, so it                                                               
is quasi-private.                                                                                                               
8:48:08 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER asked  what the housing award listed  on the chart                                                               
under APU is.                                                                                                                   
8:48:51 AM                                                                                                                    
MARCY   HERMAN,  Legislative   Liaison,   Alaska  Department   of                                                               
Education   and  Early   Development   (DEED),  Juneau,   Alaska,                                                               
explained that  she got  the housing award  off the  APU website;                                                               
they also have an academic  award for Alaska students accepted at                                                               
APU. She commented that private  universities are able to provide                                                               
greater reductions in the cost  of college attendance than public                                                               
CO-CHAIR MEYER  said if the Pell  Grant is a sliding  scale based                                                               
on income,  the chart must reflect  the lowest end of  the income                                                               
MS. HERMAN  confirmed that $5700  is the maximum grant  that will                                                               
be awarded in  the fall of 2010 for the  2010-2011 academic year.                                                               
She clarified  that qualification  for the Pell  is based  on all                                                               
types  of income,  assets, and  how many  children are  attending                                                               
college  that  year.  In  general,   she  said,  families  become                                                               
eligible for the Pell at an income of $60,000 or less.                                                                          
8:51:28 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked again about  the six-year window and why it                                                               
matters how long it takes students to get a degree.                                                                             
MR.  JEANS  explained  that statistics  show  students  are  more                                                               
successful if they enter  college immediately. The administration                                                               
also wanted  to limit the  length of time  the state has  to make                                                               
these funds available.                                                                                                          
SENATOR  STEVENS asked  what happens  if a  student drops  out to                                                               
join the military for four years.                                                                                               
MR. JEANS answered that provisions  allow extensions for military                                                               
service. He said  he thought the reasoning behind  the time limit                                                               
might be the  difficulty of tracking the people  who are eligible                                                               
for  grants and  the  status  of their  eligibility  over a  long                                                               
period of time.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR STEVENS said he was just  trying to find out what thought                                                               
process led to the six-year limit.                                                                                              
MR.  JEANS  responded that  statistics  show  students who  don't                                                               
continue with their  higher education shortly out  of high school                                                               
are  less likely  to complete  it, so  this bill  is intended  to                                                               
motivate kids to get started early.                                                                                             
8:54:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  THOMAS asked  if  the  six years  also  applies to  the                                                               
vocational/technical scholarship.                                                                                               
MR. JEANS answered that it does  apply, but once a student starts                                                               
he must finish school in two years.                                                                                             
8:55:02 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  reminded Mr.  Jeans  that  the committee  talked                                                               
about making  some changes to  the course requirements  and asked                                                               
him to comment on that.                                                                                                         
8:55:49 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. JEANS  replied that they  are still looking at  the amendment                                                               
related  to  those  changes.  He added  that  the  department  is                                                               
willing to  work with  the legislature to  address some  of their                                                               
concerns, as  long as  they maintain the  high academic  rigor so                                                               
that  students are  successful  when they  leave  high school  no                                                               
matter what they decide to pursue.                                                                                              
8:56:40 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked  where the money for  this scholarship will                                                               
come from.                                                                                                                      
8:56:59 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. JEANS answered  that the initial deposit into the  fund is in                                                             
the  operating   budget  and   will  be   a  general   fund  (GF)                                                               
appropriation in the current year.                                                                                              
8:57:21 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  THOMAS said  the  committee agrees  with  the need  for                                                               
academic rigor,  but recognizes that  not every student  is going                                                               
to be an  engineer; academic rigor in the pursuit  of a degree in                                                               
philosophy may not require four years of math.                                                                                  
8:58:20 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER pointed  out that  some of  these courses  may be                                                               
difficult for students  to get in the rural schools.  He said the                                                               
commissioner  assured   him  that   there  is  a   provision  for                                                               
alternative  pathways  in  those  cases  and  asked  if  that  is                                                               
MR. JEANS  said a provision  in the  GPS bill allows  the student                                                               
and family to apply to  the department for an alternative pathway                                                               
to meet  the requirements, but  stressed that it is  their intent                                                               
not to lower the standards for the scholarship.                                                                                 
8:59:16 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  DAVIS  said  she  would   like  Diane  Barrans  and  the                                                               
Commissioner to answer some of  the questions today's discussions                                                               
have  raised.  She also  pointed  out  that the  committee  still                                                               
hasn't gotten around to the proposed CS.                                                                                        
CO-CHAIR THOMAS held SB 224 in committee.                                                                                       
9:01:50 AM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Co-Chair Thomas adjourned the meeting at 9:01 a.m.                                                                              

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