HARRISBURG – State Rep. Lynn B. Herman’s legislation, which extends eligibility for state grants to a fifth year of college, has been approved in the House and sent to the Senate.
“While PHEAA and higher education institutions throughout the commonwealth have consistently encouraged students to complete their degrees within four years, academic, economic and societal realities have made that difficult,” Herman, R-77 of Philipsburg, said.
Under current law, state grants are renewable until a program of higher education is complete. However, a state grant is not to exceed three years beyond the first year of the award or four years beyond the first year for students enrolled in a five-year undergraduate program of study approved by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.
According to the 2002 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System survey, four-year graduation rates at the State System of Higher Education, state-related universities and independent colleges and universities were approximately 25 percent, 30 percent and 60 percent, respectively.
In 1996 Herman conducted a hearing on the matter. In the past he has spoken with the Penn State University Veterans Organization and the Penn State College Republicans on the need for the measure. The Penn State Undergraduate Student Government also supports the bill.
“For reasons such as change of majors, transfers, employment or family responsibilities, it has become more difficult to complete a degree program in four years,” Herman said. “Many veterans and other college students face this problem.”
Herman said the bill was amended in the House Appropriations Committee so that fifth year students would be eligible for additional semesters of grants only if funds are specifically appropriated for that purpose.
“Our intention is to make sure that enacting this bill will provide funding for fifth-year students if funds are available while not denying funding to students who complete their degree within four years,” Herman said.
House Bill 2397 passed by a vote of 193-3 and is now in the Senate Education Committee.