Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

03/12/2010 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved SB 283 Out of Committee
Heard & Held
               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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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.                                                                               

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