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06/17/2024 02:12 AM
Pennsylvania State Senate
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20130&cosponId=9761
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: December 4, 2012 11:43 AM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: PHEAA Grants and Online Education
 
I am reintroducing Senate Bill 84, amending the Higher Education Scholarship Law to allow PHEAA Grants to be available for eligible students wishing to pursue a degree through online (distance) education.

Under current law, an individual must meet several requirements (i.e., financial need, attend a PHEAA-approved school) before they can qualify for a PHEAA Grant. While the law states that a recipient shall be free to attend any approved institution of his choice, a rule adopted by PHEAA restricts that choice because a student must enroll in an approved program of study that requires at least 50% of the credits needed for completion of that program to be earned through classroom instruction. This 50% rule is preventing students who are eligible for a PHEAA Grant from seeking a degree via distance learning as compared to face-to-face learning.

Interestingly, Congress passed a law, The Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005, which struck down a 1992 statute denying online students equal access to certain types of federal loans. Specifically, students at universities providing more than 50% of their courses online could not qualify for federal financial assistance. This act removed that rule thus opening up the availability of financial assistance for online education. The same would hold true with the passage of this legislation as it would provide online students with the same access to state grants as students attending a traditional bricks-and-mortar classroom.

More and more students are pursuing their education online. According to the Babson Survey Research Group's annual survey of more than 2,500 colleges and universities, more than 6.1 million students took at least one online class during fall 2010—a 10.1% increase over the year before. The study, "Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011,” also stated that the 10% growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population. Also, 65% of higher education institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long term strategy.

In the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) 2012-13 Appropriations Request document, it indicated that “In just the last two years, PASSHE increased the percentage of students who enroll in at least one online course from 25 percent to 35 percent.” It also acknowledged that an obstacle exists to further online education. “However, a significant barrier to further online program development exists, and needs to be addressed. Currently, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) will not provide need-based financial aid to students who take more than half of their courses online, preventing many students from taking advantage of this flexible study option.” This legislation would address the exact problem highlighted by PASHHE.



Introduced as SB78