Nebraska Opportunity Grant Act changes advanced

Senators gave first-round approval May 22 to a bill that would change the income qualifications for receiving need-based aid for undergraduate students under the Nebraska Opportunity Grant Act.

Currently, a person’s eligibility is based on either their eligibility to receive a federal Pell grant or an expected family contribution of no more than the qualifying maximum. Pell grant eligibility and the expected family contribution are determined based on an individual’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid application. The qualifying maximum equals the prior award year qualifying maximum increased by 2.5 percent.

Under LB331, introduced by Scottsbluff Sen. John Harms, the income qualification would be an expected family contribution equal to or less than 110 percent of the maximum expected family contribution to qualify for a Pell grant in that award year.

Harms said grant funds earmarked for low-income students currently are being awarded to middle-income students.

“We must take seriously the needs of our low-income students,” he said. “If students are eligible, willing and determined to work, there’s no telling where these financial resources might take them.”

An Education Committee amendment, adopted 40-0, would incorporate the provisions of two bills, both introduced by Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery.

A provision from LB466 clarifies that the authorization a postsecondary institution receives to operate on a continuing basis shall continue indefinitely.

A provision from LB467 would allow interstate reciprocity agreements regarding postsecondary distance education and allow fees for such agreements and for applications to modify recurrent authorizations to operate.

The bill passed on a 41-0 vote.

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