Friday, February 11, 2011

House committee recommends passage of aid program for less-than-half-time students

The House Higher Education Committee on Wednesday endorsed a bill that would allow students enrolled less than half time at higher education institutions to receive State Need Grant (SNG) assistance, assuming they meet other eligibility requirements for the program.
HB 1650 makes permanent a pilot program begun in 2005 that extended SNG eligibility to students attending less than half time.  The pilot program expires June 30, 2011.
In 1990, the Legislature extended SNG eligibility to students enrolled at least half time, but less than full time.
Rep. Bob Hasegawa of Seattle, the prime sponsor of HB 1650, called the less-than-half-time pilot program “extremely successful,” adding, “our desire is to institutionalize it as a permanent part of the State Need Grant.”
Hasegawa said the bill is especially aimed at helping continuing or older students who often work, have child care obligations or are dealing with other life situations that prevent them from taking a half-time or greater college load. Approximately 4,000 of the 70,000 students who received SNG awards last year were less-than-half-time students.
Rachelle Sharpe, Acting Director of Student Financial Assistance for the HECB, spoke in favor of the bill. She said 81 percent of less-than-half-time students in the pilot program attend community or technical colleges, and 69 percent enroll in that category for just one term.
Hasegawa said making SNG available to eligible less-than-half-time students keeps them from dropping out of school, thereby preserving the state’s investment in those students.
The bill would not add to the state’s financial aid costs. The pilot program was funded at $500,000 annually.  If the budget for the next biennium does not reflect a similar amount, less-than-half-time students would be served through whatever amounts institutions receive for the SNG program, Sharpe said.

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