Nearly 450 Oklahoma college students will receive a special bonus this holiday season, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have announced.
The State Regents are distributing recently approximately $305,300 in additional financial aid to 449 Oklahoma college students who have the greatest financial need. The payments are the first in a series of student "bonuses" that will total an estimated $1.6 million over the next six months.
To qualify for the financial aid bonus, students must attend an Oklahoma public or private college or university on an Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program scholarship and be eligible for a federal Pell grant. Students earn an OHLAP scholarship based on their high school academic performance in 17 core courses and their conduct. The Pell grant is awarded on the basis of financial need.
The special aid is made possible through a federal Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant awarded to Oklahoma higher education in August. Regents noted that as a result of the grant, financial aid bonuses should be available for at least five years, although specific criteria for awarding the bonuses may be modified each year to meet the highest priorities of the GEAR UP grant.
"This OHLAP plus award will help more Oklahoma students achieve their educational goals by helping to fill the gap between a student's financial aid package and the actual cost of attending college," said Chancellor Hans Brisch. "The funds can be used to purchase books and pay for living expenses or other costs associated with attending college as well as to pay off any student loans.
"Oklahoma higher education applauds the state's congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. who helped to make this financial award possible," Brisch said. "Through their unanimous support of the GEAR UP program, they are helping more Oklahoma students attend college and earn their degrees."
The federal Gear Up program was established by Congress last year to fund partnerships between colleges and universities, middle schools, community-based organizations and businesses to prepare low-income students for college.
Oklahoma was awarded approximately $20.5 million over five years for the GEAR UP program. The grant was matched by organizations around the state.
A portion of Oklahoma's GEAR UP funds are being used to expand OHLAP, which pays tuition at a public college or university, a portion of tuition at a private institution or tuition for certain courses at a public vocational-technical school.
To qualify, students must:
Students can use the scholarships through the completion of a bachelor's degree or a maximum of five years as long as the student maintains good academic standing.
"OHLAP is an outstanding program that is making college a reality for many Oklahoma students," said State Regents Chairman Bill W. Burgess Jr. "Through OHLAP, nearly 1,900 students from 322 different high schools and all 77 Oklahoma counties have been awarded scholarships to attend college.
"And thanks to the GEAR UP grant, we are able to expand the OHLAP program for the neediest of these students," Burgess said.
In addition to the OHLAP component mentioned above, Oklahoma GEAR UP will support:
For more information on OHLAP or GEAR UP, call
the State Regents' information hotline at 800.858.1840, or 524.9239
in Oklahoma City.
The U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma with a state GEAR UP grant totaling $20.5 million in August 1999. The grant has been matched by more than $25 million from state and partner resources. With funds totaling $45.5 million, GEAR UP receives 45 percent of total funding from the federal government and 55 percent from other organizations.