Chris Garcia, Writer
Community college students may receive more financial aid from an approximated 1.8 million dollar fund allocation. The Legislature appropriated a budget that includes grant funding for UH’s Hawai’i Promise program, helping students with various tuition and expense costs. Funding from grants will cover all tuition, transportation, fees and supply costs as needed. The Federal government, utilizing Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), will determine student levels of need.
The Promise Program (HB 1594) was initially conceived as an Administration Bill in the 2017 Legislature. Representative Justin Woodson, (former) House Chair of Education, introduced it in January. However, Legislature did not pass it. The Program is now being pushed as an item in the state budget.
Private citizens, college faculty, and continuing college students alike strongly advocated HB 1594 in previous public hearings. The House Committee on Higher Education unanimously passed it unamended with no objections on February 22nd. Regardless of, it did not completely move through the legislative process in late-April.
Judy Sokei, who works for Representative Woodson, said, “…by the time HB 1594 [passed] the senate, it underwent several changes…” One of these changes was that, instead of funding covering the Promise Program for 4 years, it covers it for 2. The program since then had moved under the General Appropriations Act of 2017. Doing so would mitigate the “risk [of] going to the governor and being vetoed.”
The Appropriations Act passed its final hearing in House on May 2nd and awaits the Governor’s greenlight. The bill includes allocation of $1,829,000-per-year for the Promise Program in 2018 and 2019.
UH Chief Financial Officer Kalbert Young says, “…it is still a very good thing that the Legislature provided explicit funding…” He explained that even if the Promise Program passed as a bill, funding would not be guaranteed.
John Morton, UH Vice-President for Community Colleges, said that the 1.8 million is in the University’s operating budget. Because of this, “typically…the funding remains in the budget without further action,” so it is secured.
Morton also said, “UH will establish the program formally within the executive policy on tuition,” since Legislature did not dictate specifics. Furthermore, he believes Legislature will help expand the funding if the Promise Program grows in demand.