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Point of View: Program is a sound investment in Oklahoma's future

Glen Johnson
Glen Johnson

The Oklahoma’s Promise program (then called the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program) was created by the Legislature in 1992 to encourage more students to aspire for college, prepare academically in high school and ultimately, earn college degrees. Since its inception, more than 85,000 Oklahoma students have earned the scholarship, helping them attend postsecondary education at a time when a college degree has never been more valuable.

At the state regents’ request, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) recently conducted a comprehensive review of the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program. SREB’s findings show that Oklahoma’s Promise is effective and efficient as a key driver to increase educational attainment levels in our state. The report describes Oklahoma’s Promise as one of the premier student support initiatives in the nation and an example of how a state can invest valuable resources in its students and see a strong return on that investment.

The Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship pays tuition only at any Oklahoma public college or university until the student receives a bachelor’s degree or for five years, whichever comes first. It also covers a portion of tuition at accredited Oklahoma private institutions or career technology centers. To be eligible for Oklahoma’s Promise, the student’s family income must not exceed $55,000 at the time of application and must not exceed $100,000 while the student attends college. To receive the scholarship, students must complete a college prep curriculum in high school, meet a high school GPA requirement, attend class regularly, and refrain from drug and alcohol abuse and delinquent acts.

Students completing the program continue to succeed academically, with high school GPAs, college-going rates and freshman college GPAs that exceed the state average and ACT scores that exceed those of comparable middle- and lower-income peers. Oklahoma’s Promise students also achieve above-average full-time college enrollment rates, retention rates and degree-completion rates. Additionally, Oklahoma’s Promise college graduates are employed and stay in Oklahoma at a higher rate than the general student population.

Approximately 17,000 students are expected to receive the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship in college this year. By law, Oklahoma’s Promise has a dedicated funding source to ensure that the program is fully funded each year. Over the past 26 years, every earned Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship has been fully paid.

Oklahoma’s Promise college graduates honor the state’s investment by becoming engineers, teachers, business leaders, legislators, nurses, information technology specialists, law enforcement officers and countless other valuable professionals. Oklahoma’s Promise has a significant impact on our workforce and economy that will continue for generations. This transformational scholarship represents a “game-changing” investment that our governor, our Legislature and our state Board of Equalization have made in our students.

Johnson is Oklahoma's higher education chancellor.