Concurrent enrollment program faces changes

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Former Reporter
01/26/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – In a Jan. 17 Rules Committee meeting, Tribal Councilors amended the Concurrent Enrollment Scholarship Act by reducing eligible credit hours per semester and striking funding for private and proprietary institutions.

The amended act states eligible high school juniors will receive funding for “up to six credit hours of tuition, books and required fees” per spring and fall semesters upon receipt of a detailed institutional invoice.

Eligible high school seniors will “receive funding for up to six credit hours of books and required fees” per spring and fall semesters upon receipt of invoice, while the cost of tuition is “waived by the State.” The waiver is a reimbursement agreement between the Oklahoma State Department of Education, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and Oklahoma colleges and universities.

The Cherokee Nation’s previous act allowed eligible high school juniors and seniors concurrently enrolled to receive $100 per credit hour up to nine hours for a per semester total of $900.

“In many cases this award did not cover all tuition, books and/or fees for the student, leaving the burden to the family,” CN Education Services budget analyst Jennifer Pigeon said. “This new legislation allows the student to take up to six credit hours and pays the full cost of tuition, books and required fees, with no out of pocket expenses, allowing student and families to focus on the academics.”

Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick said the new legislation would cost the tribe approximately $200,000 and was implemented because of OSRHE not being able to fund tuition waivers for juniors seeking concurrent enrollment credit.

“Whenever the State of Oklahoma…stepped down from funding the juniors at the colleges and universities, the tribe stepped up,” he said. “They’re only funding seniors’ tuition, but we at the Cherokee Nation are still funding the juniors and seniors. Now we have six hours, but we’re paying for everything.”

Angela Caddell, associate vice chancellor of OSRHE communications, said while eligible juniors and seniors can participate the tuition waiver established by the state Legislature in 2005 is only available for seniors.

Successive years of state budget cuts mean the program is reimbursing universities and colleges at about 27 percent of the cost to administer the program, Caddell said. However, she said some universities and colleges do provide waivers for juniors and seniors.

“Because concurrent enrollment strengthens student preparation, drives student success, lowers family costs for college and reduces the time required to complete a degree, some campuses have elected to provide tuition waivers for eligible juniors, as well,” she said. “This option has been reduced or eliminated across the state system due to the severe budget cuts over the last several years.”

In the previous academic year, nearly 12,000 students enrolled in concurrent courses in Oklahoma generated more than 102,000 college credit hours, Caddell said.

The amended act also states students seeking to complete concurrent enrollment hours at private or proprietary colleges and universities are “not eligible to participate in the Cherokee Nation Concurrent Enrollment scholarship.” This includes students wishing to take classes at Oklahoma City University, Oral Roberts University and the University of Tulsa.

“Of course when you go to a private institution, tuition is going to be a lot higher than a public school institution,” Walkingstick said. “That was the reason we changed it just to public only. Most schools within our higher education area that serve our students, there’s a public university within a 50-mile radius, so there’s concurrent enrollment opportunities. I don’t see it affecting students in the rural areas.”

Other requirements for the concurrent enrollment program have not changed. Students in public or home schools must submit verification letters of eligibility, as well as a current college class schedules and high school transcripts. Scholarships are limited to funding general education courses outlined by the program and contingent upon availability.

“Before some kids were taking bowling or dance class or whatever. They can only take core classes such as physical science, algebra, English I, classes like that.” Walkingstick said.

Students must also maintain a cumulative 2.5 grade point average and complete self-help hours. If insufficient funding arises, the program will give priority to high school seniors based upon their unweighted GPA multiplied by their ACT score.

“The good thing about our concurrent enrollment program is that it saves the tribe money on the back end of the kid’s window of getting college scholarships,” Walkingstick said. “We’re paying $600 for a part time student, pretty much. Whereas if this student was in college already, we’d be paying a $1,000 per semester for six credit hours.”

The amended act was expected to be on the Tribal Council’s Feb. 12 agenda. If approved, the changes would go into effect within 30 days.

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