Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
03/12/2010 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION
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SB 224-POSTSECONDARY SCHOLARSHIPS 8:18:33 AM CO-CHAIR MEYER announced consideration of SB 224. Before the committee was CSSB 224, version S. Today, he said, the committee will hear more from the commissioner about his concerns on the committee substitute (CS). 8:19:21 AM LARRY LEDOUX, Commissioner, Department of Education and Early Development (DEED), began by saying that the department has read the book Crossing the Finish Line and found it very informative. He said they spoke with the committee aides yesterday and wanted to share his concerns in evaluating the committee substitute. His first concern with the CS was the removal of the intent goals language. He explained that SB 224 is intended to inspire students and he believes it is important to keep the reasoning behind the original bill in the CS. He asserted that the most important category of students to inspire and focus on is the C+ students. The type of student found in this category are typically trying to strictly get by, they are not looking for a rigorous curriculum. If one of these students was inspired by the Governor's Performance Scholarship (GPS) to take a rigorous curriculum and receives a C+ because that would be an enormous accomplishment. He stressed that this is the kind of student the scholarship is intended to help and that he wants to inspire. That is why accountability is so important and why the intent language is important. Additionally, it inspires C students to become B students and B students to become A students; it pulls everyone forward. Keeping the goals in the bill is very important for this reason. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX stressed that SB 224 is part of a comprehensive effort to increase the success of our kids. It is a critical component in the continuum for educational success because it targets the attitudes of students. In Section 5 on page 8, lines 3-7, the CS removed the career scholarship and left only the academic scholarship. It then states that the academic scholarship could be used to go to a career school. This differentiates from the House's CS [identified as 26-GH2771\P] which separated the two scholarships. He explained that there are three reasons to keep the two scholarships separate. The first is that often the career component is lost in preparing kids for college. Even though the vast majority of students will not be going to college, they will be preparing to enter the workforce. The second reason is because the State Board of Education is charged in SB 224 to develop the programmatic standards for the scholarship. He visualized a slightly different set of rigorous courses for a career student. He agreed that there are common courses that all students are required to take (for example, language arts and social studies). However, with some subjects, like math, there are only particular courses that every student needs and should be required to take (for example, algebra I, algebra II and geometry). He questioned whether a student who plans on going to a technical student should be required to study calculus. The answer, he said, is no. By combining the two scholarships into one, we lose the ability to differentiate between slight, but important, variations in course requirement. The third reason to keep the two scholarships separate can be found in the change made on page 11, line 21, of the CS. This allows a student to receive 12 semesters of paid scholarship. This means that a student would be able to attend college for six years, which a lot of students would like. He argued that part of the idea behind the scholarship is accountability. A student should stay on course once they begin postsecondary school and finish in four years. This would also increase the scholarship by 50 percent, assuming students took advantage of all 12 semesters. 8:27:47 AM COMMISSIONER LEDOUX continued on page 9, lines 22-26, of the House version P that deletes the six year window of eligibility. This makes the scholarship available to students indefinitely. One thing that we know with most state colleges they require that the student begin college right after high school in order to take advantage of the scholarship. This is not always the case with Alaska sometimes a student will take time off before attending college or attend a college out of state. We allow the flexibility so that a young person can begin the scholarship program anytime during this six year window. If the scholarship eligibility date were to be extended indefinitely the cost of the scholarship will increase. It would not provide the accountability that is needed. It would mean that a student who qualifies for a scholarship would not be required to use it. We want them to go to college or technical school, he said. He clarified that when he uses the word college he means both college and technical school. The next change he found in the CS version S to the House's CS version P was the removal of the approved tuition. The University of Alaska currently charges by the credit. This means that 15 credits would cost more than 12 credits, but both are considered "full time." The approved tuition was based on 15 credits, however in the CS, version S, it says "full time." We believe, he said, that the CS should say 15 credits because this is a typical load a student would take and it would give them greater funds to attend college. 8:30:59 AM SENATOR DAVIS asked Commissioner LeDoux to clarify what the Senate's CS, version S, stated. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX answered the House CS, version P, is based on 15 credits, while the Senate CS, version, says "full time." He said he believes that the committee meant to say 15 credits so that students would receive the maximum amount of credits possible. If the applied tuition remained as strictly "full time" then a student would receive only 12 credits. CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked if they should also define half-time in credit hours. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX deferred to Diane Barrans. DIANE BARRANS, Executive Direction, Alaska Commission of Postsecondary Education (ACPE), answered that currently the CS, version S, indicates that they would receive a "pro-rata" benefit. It would be more effective to state that the half-time recipient be eligible for 50 percent of their full scholarship amount relative to their eligibility. CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked about the credit hour for half-time students. DIANE BARRANS responded that anyone taking six to 11 credits is considered half-time. CO-CHAIR MEYER clarified with Commissioner LeDoux that he wanted to return the provision in the original bill and the current House CS that includes the six year time frame rather than leaving it open. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX said yes. SENATOR DAVIS asked if the time frame was left open in the current House version. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX answered no, it is six years and eight semesters (as opposed to 12 semesters). SENATOR STEVENS asked if there are other ways to address the non-traditional students. MS. BARRANS answered yes. There is a program that primarily serves non-traditional students. The Alaska Advantage Education Grant is a needs based grant whose average recipient is between the ages of 29 and 31 years old and are all independent students from a financial aid perspectives. SENATOR STEVENS said that it is important not to forget about the non-traditional students who, in his experience, make up a large majority of the student body in the state. MS. BARRANS agreed that is true, but one of the primary objectives of the scholarship is to change that. She explained that those individuals who delay their education reduce the economic and social benefits to themselves and their families. 8:36:03 AM SENATOR DAVIS asked for details on the funding of the grant program. MS. BARRANS responded it is a blend of funds that include state general funds appropriated through the capital budget, a small amount of federal funds and, up until 2010, some student loan corporations receipts included. But, unless a student is part of a workforce shortage program, the most a student can receive is $1000 per year. In terms of the purchasing power of the program it is not comparable to the Governor's Performance Scholarship (GPS). SENATOR DAVIS asked Ms. Barrans to clarify whether she did not want this funding added in to SB 224. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX answered that they are two different programs. As Ms. Barrans indicated, the entire purpose of the program is to get kids to attend college early and complete their program. The funding for a program that includes non- traditional students would be extensive compared to what they have available for GPS. He said he is not arguing that such a program is not important. SENATOR DAVIS said she was confused because they are not giving any recommendations for what they can do for non-traditional students with SB 224. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX said there are a number of options nationally for non-traditional students. He did not have any recommendations to respond to this need without changing the intent and goals of SB 224. He offered to work with Senator Davis at a later time in order to help craft a bill that focuses on non-traditional students. SENATOR DAVIS returned to the Alaska Advantage Grant program. She asked Ms. Barrans to confirm that the program was funded by the state in previous years and asked her how much the student can receive. MS. BARRANS answered that the appropriation was for the 2009 capital budget that was spread over three years. The last year that there would be funds already appropriated for this grant would be for the 2010/2011 academic year. A student can receive $1000 to $2000. SENATOR STEVENS asked, in regards to the overall goal, isn't the real purpose of this scholarship to get students to begin college early and finish in four years. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX answered yes. SENATOR STEVENS suggested they include that goal clearly in the letter of intent. CO-CHAIR MEYER asked Commissioner LeDoux to continue presenting his concerns with the CS to the committee. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX responded that on the advice of the DEED lawyer the definitions of the commissioner and the department in both the current House CS and version S Commissioner be included on page 15 (Sec. 14.43.890). The Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOL) will maintain the eligible list of qualifying programs. We want to make sure, he said, that the institutions and programs that the scholarship is supporting are quality programs that contribute to the workforce in the state. CO-CHAIR MEYER asked the commissioner to confirm that the DOL would have the list. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX answered yes. He continued that in regards to the $3000 limit on career and technical programs, he believes this amount is a good number. It is above the tuition for most of the programs that are offered. They don't want to set a "gold standard" that inspires programs to raise their costs due to this scholarship. CO-CHAIR MEYER confirmed that the CS had removed that cap. He asked if the commissioner wanted the $3000 limit for career schools to be replaced. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX concurred. He added that included in the bill is an annual review and report to the legislature. If the allotted funds for career schools turns out to be insufficient it can be changed later. 8:46:24 AM MS. BARRANS said that she had some technical concerns with the CS. Regarding section 4, beginning page 5, adds the authority for the Alaska Student Loan Corporation (ASLC) to enter into an agreement with the commissioner to administer the program. She recommended that the whole section be taken out so the commission and its staff can carry out activities without having to enter into a contract with the corporation. Her concern is any interpretation from an external party that this program is an obligation to the ASLC but rather to the state. She continued on to Section 5, page 8, line 4-14, the language used in the CS uses language that appoints the commission to administer the daily operations of the program. However, on page 9, lines 14-18 the CS gives the department the authority to adopt regulations for the application procedure. She belives that it is more appropriate that the commission to be tasked with that responsibility. She recommends on page 11, lines 19-20, that for students enrolled on a half-time basis being eligible for an award on a "pro-rata basis" should be capped at 50 percent of what they would receive if they were attending full time. The other issue in section five, she explained, is a difference between the senate CS, version S, and the current House CS where the full time tuition not only explains what "full time" is but what amount will be used to calculate full time tuition. The dates that lock down this tuition in the House CS is the 2009/2010 school year. Also, there is no reference to the University of Alaska in section five in regards to tuition. Ff the university is going to be the benchmark for the program it needs to be stated in this section. Currently, the CS simply states that a student go to a qualifying postsecondary institution. If the benchmark is not tied to a specific institution the GPS would not be uniform in where students would attend college and how much their tuition would be. CO-CHAIR MEYER agreed it was their intent to tie the tuition to the University of Alaska. He asked if the difference between the University of Alaska campuses differs in regards to tuition MS. BARRANS said they've used an average of 15 credits and that the tuition is the same at the three main campuses in Alaska. There is some variation at Prince William Sound and some of the rural campuses. There was discretion given to chancellors or college presidents in those areas to set slightly lower rates. The last item of concern, she said, is on section 8, page 16-21, which is essentially an update of the procurement code. On page 20, line 23 she suggests that the "guarantee phrase" be changed to "servicing." The reason behind this is that the use of the phrase "guarantee" is very specific to the federal scholarship programs, while "servicing" is more generic. Finally, in the current House CS there is a time frame for when a student can apply for the GPS, which is no earlier than six months prior to graduation. The reason for behind this was from an administrative standpoint and the benefit of the student it does not make sense to apply too early. This time frame was left out entirely of the CS, version S, and she asked that it be put back into the bill. 8:54:07 AM CO-CHAIR MEYER commented that the big difference between the original bill and the senate CS is the issue of non-traditional students. The rest appears to be fairly minor. SENATOR HUGGINS said one subject that has not been addressed is the shortage of specific disciplines in the state and whether a component of the GPS should target on producing individuals in specific disciplines (for example, math teachers). Also, the first year of college, and especially the first quarter, is the biggest attrition period. College students themselves suggested that they don't receive the scholarship until they have been in college for at least one quarter. The GPS then would be an incentive to do well in the first quarter of college. MS. BARRANS responded that her instinctive reaction from the standpoint of an administrator is that it may cost more to administer than they would save. Further, the information that she has received from the university is that students are more likely to drop out at the beginning of their second year. It would also require financial aid administrators to recalculate a student's financial aid package as a result of late arriving non-load aid. From an administrative standpoint this would be highly problematic. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX added that, if this program is successful, he believes that students will be better prepared and less likely to drop out. SENATOR HUGGINS said they still need to discuss the shortage of some disciplines within the Alaska workforce, for example math teachers. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX said there are a number of federal programs that target teachers in the math and sciences specifically. SENATOR STEVENS asked what specific science classes the commissioner recommended for all high school students. COMMISSIONER LEGDOUX responded that he believes that to be eligible for either scholarship all students should take a life science, physical science, earth science, and applied science. In general science classes are a bit more eclectic than math classes and students have more choices. However the science courses can differ depending on the postsecondary program a student plans on attending. For example an individual going to vocational or technical school might take more applied science. DEED did create a list of potential courses which he will send on to the committee. SENATOR STEVENS said that just like trigonometry may not be necessary for all students to take, physics may not be necessary. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX said yes and that they wanted to provide maximum flexibility while maintaining the rigor of the required courses. They intend to work with school districts to develop these standards and courses that would meet the requirements. He does not expect a student that is on a career or technical path to have to take calculus or physics. 9:01:48 AM CO-CHAIR MEYER said the committee will discuss the commissioner's concerns about the Senate CS on Monday [March 15, 2010] and bring forward new CS or amend version S by Wednesday [March 17, 2010]. He expressed his hope in moving SB 224 out of committee by Friday [March 19, 2010]. SENATOR STEVENS asked about the letter of intent. It seems that it focuses a lot on primary and secondary education and does not emphasize that it is to encourage students to enter college early and complete college early. He believes that the letter of intent needs to be reorganized. CO-CHAIR MEYER asked the commissioner if the letter of intent is basically the governor's original goals. COMMISSIONER LEDOUX replied yes but the House may have made some changes. He included that he would be available on weekends if necessary to work with the committee. CO-CHAIR MEYER said they will be working on the CS given the suggestions that have been made over the weekend and on Monday during the committee meeting. 9:06:01 AM MS. BARRANS said she believes that the House framed the inclusion of the goals to explain that these are administrative principals that the DEED and the DOL should be mindful of in further developing the program. CO-CHAIR MEYER said that the committee would consider how that was addressed. He said they would take SB 224 up again at the next meeting. 9:06:55 AM There being no further business to come before the committee, CO-CHAIR MEYER adjourned the meeting at 9:06 a.m.