PRINTER'S NO. 866
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
SENATE BILL
No.
377
Session of
2021
INTRODUCED BY FONTANA, SANTARSIERO, KANE AND KEARNEY,
JUNE 7, 2021
REFERRED TO EDUCATION, JUNE 7, 2021
AN ACT
Amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), entitled "An
act relating to the public school system, including certain
provisions applicable as well to private and parochial
schools; amending, revising, consolidating and changing the
laws relating thereto," establishing the Nellie Bly
Scholarship Program; providing for scholarship awards to
students in State System of Higher Education institutions and
for emergency grants for students; and imposing duties on
Department of Education and State System of Higher Education.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. The act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known
as the Public School Code of 1949, is amended by adding an
article to read:
ARTICLE XX-K
NELLIE BLY SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
Section 2001-K. Definitions.
The following words and phrases when used in this article
shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the
context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Academic year." A complete school year commencing on or
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after August 1 of the calendar year.
"Account." The Nellie Bly Scholarship Program Restricted
Account established under 4 Pa.C.S. ยง 1405 (relating to
Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Trust Fund).
"Cost of attendance." The direct and indirect costs relating
to attendance at an institution. The term includes tuition and
fees, room and board or living expenses, books, supplies,
transportation, loan fees, the documented cost of a personal
computer and other school-related miscellaneous expenses,
allowance for child care or other dependent care, costs related
to a disability and eligible study-abroad programs.
"Department." The Department of Education of the
Commonwealth.
"Eligible student." An individual who meets the eligibility
criteria specified in section 2006-K.
"Emergency grant." A grant to a scholarship recipient by the
State system to cover emergency funding needs of a scholarship
recipient such as textbook expenses, small outstanding balances
on a scholarship recipient's account with an institution or
other emergency needs deemed acceptable by the institution.
"FAFSA" or "application." The Free Application for Federal
Student Aid.
"Financial aid." Money paid by an entity on behalf of a
student enrolled in higher education to help pay for college or
career school. The term includes grants, work study, loans and
scholarships.
"Full-time enrollment." A course load of credited classes
that add up to 12 or more credits per academic semester.
"Funding award." A transfer of funds from the account to the
State system to fund scholarship awards and emergency grants.
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"Institution." A State-owned college or university within
the State System of Higher Education established and listed in
section 2002-A(a).
"Institutional aid." Financial aid offered to a student of
an institution directly by the institution. The term includes
merit aid, gift aid and athletic awards.
"Private scholarship." Financial aid awards funded by
entities other than the Federal Government, the Commonwealth or
an institution, including awards by companies, service groups,
foundations, organizations and individuals.
"Program." The Nellie Bly Scholarship Program established
under section 2002-K.
"Program administration agreement." The written agreement
between the department and the State system that governs the
administration of the program.
"Promissory note." The promissory note executed by a
scholarship recipient in favor of the institution that sets
forth:
(1) the conditions which would cause the scholarship
award to be repaid by the scholarship recipient; and
(2) the terms of the repayment.
"Scholarship agreement." The written agreement between the
institution and a scholarship recipient when a scholarship award
is made.
"Scholarship award." An award of program funds made by the
State system to an eligible student toward the costs of
attendance.
"Scholarship recipient." An eligible student who is awarded
a scholarship or emergency grant.
"State system." The State System of Higher Education
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established under Article XX-A.
Section 2002-K. Nellie Bly Scholarship Program.
(a) Establishment.--The Nellie Bly Scholarship Program is
established within the department.
(b) Funding award.--The department shall make a funding
award to the State system. The State system shall use the
funding award to make scholarship awards and emergency grants to
eligible students. The department shall allocate the funds
appropriated to the account as follows:
(1) One-quarter of 1% for reimbursement for the
administrative program costs incurred by the department,
including costs for data collection, audits and reviews under
section 2003-K(e).
(2) Three-quarters of 1% for reimbursement for the
administrative program costs incurred by the State system,
including costs incurred by the State system under section
2004-K(d)(5).
(3) One percent for funding by the State system of
emergency grants.
(4) Nighty-eight percent for funding by the State system
of scholarship awards.
(c) Available funds.--The department shall make a funding
award to the State system only to the extent funds are available
in the account.
Section 2003-K. Duties of department.
(a) Program administration agreement.--The department shall
enter into a program administration agreement with the State
system which shall include the following:
(1) The amount of the funding award being made by the
department.
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(2) The timing of the funding award.
(3) The responsibilities of the State system as an
administrator of the program, as prescribed in section 2004-
K, including data reporting requirements and performance
benchmarks.
(4) Posting of the application for the program on the
department's publicly accessible Internet website.
(5) Conditions for when a scholarship recipient must
repay the scholarship award to the State system.
(6) Other terms and conditions as deemed necessary by
the department in the regulations.
(b) Termination of program administration agreement.--The
department may terminate the program administration agreement
with the State system if the department determines any of the
following:
(1) The State system breached a material term or
condition of the program administration agreement, including
failure to meet performance benchmarks, accountability
standards or data reporting requirements.
(2) The State system misused a funding award as
determined by a department audit.
(3) Any other condition specified by the department in
regulations.
(c) Administration after termination.--If the department
terminates a program administration agreement with the State
system under subsection (b), the department may administer the
program or may contract with a third party to provide program
administration.
(d) Form of agreement and promissory note.--The department,
in coordination with the State system, shall develop the form of
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scholarship agreements and promissory notes to be used by the
State system when awarding a scholarship.
(e) Audits, review and collection of data.--The department
may conduct audits and reviews and collect data of the
scholarship awards and emergency grants made by the State system
as the department determines to be necessary or appropriate.
(f) Regulations.--The department shall promulgate
regulations as necessary to implement, administer and enforce
this article.
(g) Temporary regulations.--
(1) In order to facilitate the prompt implementation of
this article, the department shall promulgate temporary
regulations that shall expire no later than three years
following the effective date of this section. The temporary
regulations shall not be subject to:
(i) Sections 201, 202, 203, 204 and 205 of the act
of July 31, 1968 (P.L.769, No.240), referred to as the
Commonwealth Documents Law.
(ii) Section 204(b) of the act of October 15, 1980
(P.L.950, No.164), known as the Commonwealth Attorneys
Act.
(iii) The act of June 25, 1982 (P.L.633, No.181),
known as the Regulatory Review Act.
(2) The department shall transmit notice of the
temporary regulations to the Legislative Reference Bureau for
publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
(h) Guidelines for awards.--The department shall develop
written guidelines, in consultation with the State system, for
the implementation of this article. The guidelines may
prioritize scholarship awards for students pursuing certain
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degree programs or career pathways identified using labor market
data.
Section 2004-K. Duties of State system.
(a) Administration.--The State system shall administer the
program in accordance with the program administration agreement.
(b) Assign rights.--At the request of the department, the
State system shall assign rights in the scholarship agreements
and promissory notes to the department.
(c) Accountability.--The State system shall meet benchmarks
and accountability standards as prescribed by the department in
the regulations or program administration agreement.
(d) Powers and duties.--The powers and duties of the State
system under the program shall include:
(1) Entering into a program administration agreement
with the department.
(2) Developing, in coordination with the department, the
form of scholarship agreements and promissory notes to be
used by the State system when awarding a scholarship.
(3) Awarding scholarships and executing scholarship
agreements with eligible students on a form prescribed by the
department.
(4) Enforcing scholarship agreements and promissory
notes.
(5) Collecting amounts required to be repaid by
scholarship recipients under section 2006-K(d) whether
through the direct collection efforts of the State system or
through a contract between the State system and a third-party
loan servicer.
(6) Reallocating amounts repaid by scholarship
recipients under section 2006-K(d) to fund additional
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scholarship awards and emergency grants.
(7) Preparing reports and compiling program data as
requested by the department in a form and manner as
prescribed by the department.
(8) Coordinating with the institutions and the
department on the administration of the program.
(9) Collaborating with the department and institutions
on outreach to promote the program.
(10) Performing other responsibilities needed for the
administration of the program as determined by the
department.
Section 2005-K. Duties of institutions.
(a) Coordinate administration.--The institutions shall
coordinate with the State system in the administration of the
program.
(b) Duties.--The institutions shall have the following
powers and duties:
(1) Determining whether an individual qualifies as an
eligible student under section 2006-K.
(2) Determining the amount of the scholarship award or
emergency grant for which an eligible student qualifies.
(3) Preparing a financial need analysis for each
eligible student using the FAFSA or another institutional
form approved by the department.
(4) Counseling eligible students about the requirements
of the program, including the conditions of repayment.
(5) Making required refunds to the State system under
section 2007-K.
(6) Collaborating with the department and the State
system on outreach to promote the program.
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(7) Confirming standards of academic progress for
scholarship recipients.
(8) Performing other program duties and responsibilities
as determined by the department or State system.
Section 2006-K. Qualifications of scholarship recipients.
(a) Qualifications.--To receive a scholarship award, a
scholarship recipient must meet the following qualifications:
(1) Graduate from high school or earn a general
educational development (GED) diploma or equivalent.
(2) Receive acceptance and matriculate at an
institution.
(3) Once enrolled at an institution, work toward the
eligible student's first undergraduate baccalaureate degree.
(4) Maintain full-time enrollment per semester.
(5) Complete the FAFSA.
(6) Have a household income of no more than 400% of the
Federal poverty level for a family of four as specified in
poverty guidelines issued annually by the United States
Department of Health and Human Services.
(7) Have received a scholarship award under the program
for less than eight full-time semesters.
(8) Maintain standards of academic progress as
determined by the department.
(b) Renewal requirements.--For a scholarship recipient to
receive a renewal of a scholarship award, the scholarship
recipient shall:
(1) Complete the FAFSA or an institution's equivalent
annually.
(2) Have a household income of no more than 400% of the
Federal poverty level for a family of four as specified in
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poverty guidelines issued annually by the United States
Department of Health and Human Services.
(3) Maintain full-time enrollment per semester in an
undergraduate degree program at an institution for a period
not exceeding more than eight full-time semesters.
(4) Complete at least 24 credits per academic year.
(c) Scholarship agreement.--An eligible student shall enter
into a scholarship agreement and promissory note with an
institution for each year the eligible student receives a
scholarship award.
(d) Repayment.--A scholarship recipient shall repay the full
amount of the scholarship award received at an interest rate
established by the department if the scholarship recipient fails
to:
(1) Satisfy all degree and other requirements of the
institution.
(2) Satisfy the requirements of subsection (a), (b) or
(c).
(3) Except as provided under subsection (e), reside in
the Commonwealth for a period of one year for each full or
partial academic year the scholarship recipient received a
scholarship award. The requirement under this paragraph shall
commence upon completion of an undergraduate degree program
or upon termination of enrollment at an institution,
whichever occurs first. If a scholarship recipient transfers
from one institution to another institution, the transfer
shall not be considered as a termination of enrollment.
(4) Remain continuously enrolled at an institution until
completion of an undergraduate degree.
(5) Complete an undergraduate baccalaureate degree
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program at an institution within six years of the initial
scholarship award.
(e) Residency requirement.--Notwithstanding subsection (d)
(3), the Commonwealth residency requirement may be deferred
under the following circumstances:
(1) Enrollment on a full-time basis in a graduate degree
program within six months of receipt of an undergraduate
degree from an institution. An individual shall be required
to provide the State system with documentation of the
individual's continual status as a graduate student on a
half-time basis. The residency requirement under subsection
(d)(3) shall commence six months after termination of
enrollment on a full-time basis in a graduate degree program
located outside the Commonwealth.
(2) Other extenuating circumstances as determined by the
department.
(f) Residency waiver.--Subsection (d)(3) shall not apply to
the following circumstances:
(1) Death of the scholarship recipient.
(2) Determination of permanent and total disability of
the scholarship recipient.
(3) Enlistment in the United States Armed Forces or the
Pennsylvania National Guard.
(4) Other extenuating circumstances described in
regulations promulgated by the department.
(g) Address change.--A scholarship recipient shall inform
the State system of a change in the scholarship recipient's
permanent address within 30 days of relocation.
(h) Repayment of emergency grants.--There shall be no
obligation for a scholarship recipient to repay an emergency
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grant.
Section 2007-K. Refunding by institution.
An institution shall refund the State system when a
scholarship recipient disenrolls from the institution during the
institution's full refund drop period no later than the
beginning of the next academic year or one year after the year
during which the eligible student was enrolled.
Section 2008-K. Need-based eligibility tiers.
(a) Priority of awards.--The State system and institutions
shall use the following need-based priority ranking when
awarding scholarships to eligible students:
(1) First priority shall be given to students who have
household income of up to 200% of the Federal poverty level
for a family of four as specified in poverty guidelines
issued annually by the United States Department of Health and
Human Services.
(2) Second priority shall be given to students who have
household income of up to 300% of the Federal poverty level
for a family of four as specified in poverty guidelines
issued annually by the United States Department of Health and
Human Services.
(3) Third priority shall be given to students who have
household income of up to 400% of the Federal poverty level
for a family of four as specified in poverty guidelines
issued annually by the United States Department of Health and
Human Services.
(b) Order of financial aid.--An institution shall apply the
financial aid received by an eligible student in the following
order:
(1) Federal Pell Grant or any successor program.
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(2) Pennsylvania State grants.
(3) Institutional aid.
(4) Private scholarships.
(5) Scholarship awards under the program.
(6) Federal work study.
(7) Federal student loans.
(c) Base amount of awards.--The base amount of a scholarship
award for each of the priority tiers in subsection (a) shall be
determined annually by the department.
(d) Application of award.--The scholarship award shall be
first applied against the direct charges at the institution
which includes tuition, fees and room and board owed by a
scholarship recipient to the institution. Remaining scholarship
award funds may be used by the scholarship recipient for other
costs of attendance.
(e) Maximum award.--A scholarship award may not exceed the
cost of attendance after all other financial aid has been
applied to a scholarship recipient's account.
(f) Emergency grants.--Emergency grants shall be awarded to
eligible students by the State system upon the recommendation of
an institution's designated financial aid officer. The State
system may award an eligible student an emergency grant if the
eligible student:
(1) Has received a scholarship award under the program.
(2) Appeals to the financial aid office of an
institution for emergency funding for costs of attendance or
other costs established by the department.
(3) Requests an amount that does not exceed the base
amount for emergency grants set during the academic year.
(g) Award term limitations.--The term of a scholarship award
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may not exceed six continuous academic years absent extenuating
circumstances established by the department.
Section 2009-K. Miscellaneous provisions.
(a) Penalty.--An individual who knowingly or intentionally
procures, obtains or aids another to procure or obtain a
scholarship award or emergency grant under this article through
fraudulent means shall be disqualified from participation in the
program and shall be liable to the State system for an amount
equal to three times the amount awarded.
(b) Award money not taxable income.--Scholarship awards and
emergency grants received by a scholarship recipient shall not
be considered taxable income for purposes of Article III of the
act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code
of 1971.
(c) Subject to the Pennsylvania Code.--The provisions of
this article shall be subject to 22 Pa. Code Ch. 121 (relating
to student financial aid).
Section 2. The Secretary of Education shall transmit notice
of the establishment of the Nellie Bly Scholarship Program
Restricted Account to the Legislative Reference Bureau for
publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
Section 3. This act shall take effect as follows:
(1) This section shall take effect immediately.
(2) Section 2 of this act shall take effect immediately.
(3) The remainder of this act shall take effect after
publication of the notice required under section 2 of this
act.
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