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Lawmaker fears bill will prevent more from entering college

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OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma lawmaker fears a number of Oklahoma families won't be able to afford to send their kids to school under a new proposal.

House Bill 1721 has already passed the house and is now on to the senate.

It would impact OHLAP, also known as Oklahoma's Promise, by drastically decreasing the income level for qualifying students.

Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said, "It's called 'Oklahoma's Promise' and for us to back track on that promise, I just think this is one of the worst bills we've seen go through the legislature this year."

Dorman is standing up against HB 1721.

The measure is aimed at lowering the secondary income cap for students receiving an Oklahoma's Promise scholarship.

Currently those who apply in 8th, 9th or 10th grade must meet certain criteria including a family income of $50,000 or less.

The program has a secondary income requirement which comes in when they enter college.

Currently the secondary income is set at $100,000 or less.

House Bill 1721 would drop that to $60,000 or less.

Dorman said, "By us lowering this from $100,000 to $60,000, we're going to deprive a lot of families from this opportunity."

Rep. Leslie Osborn said, "My bill would lower the second limitation to $60,000 so we are serving the community who we originally wanted to help, the ones who would have a hard time getting their kids to college."

Osborn is the author of the bill.

"The cost goes up every year," she said. "We're at $64 million a year. We live in a balanced budget state. Eventually the numbers will get so high we can't afford the program."

Dorman, however, said he believes lowering the limit will hurt middle class families.

He said it will make it harder for their children to get a college degree.

Dorman said, "We've got to do what we can to make sure we provide for those families that aren't just on the lowest rung on the income level."

Osborn said the original bill was intended to help families at poverty level, not the middle class.

She said this bill is an effort to save money and return the program to its original intent.