The funding plan sponsored by State Sen. Sara Gelser for fifth-year college programs at mid-valley high schools has passed the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House.

“I’d say I’m feeling grateful,” Gelser wrote in an email to the Democrat-Herald. “So many people worked on this, and it is so important for kids that need the chance the Post Graduate Scholar program offers to them. The unanimous vote on the floor was a pleasant surprise that I never could have predicted even a week ago, and I expect it will have a strong showing in the House as well.”

Almost all high schools in the mid-valley participate in some form of fifth-year program, letting students defer receiving a diploma while using state school funds to pay for books and tuition at community colleges.

Lawmakers in larger districts tried to kill the programs twice last year, contending they siphoned money from the K-12 system and couldn’t stretch far enough to cover big districts such as Beaverton.

Gelser’s Senate Bill 1537 is meant to set up the structure that will keep the fifth-year programs alive, although they will not cover all the same students that they do now.

The program will apply only to “post-graduate scholars.” Those are defined as students who have achieved all the credits necessary for a diploma; have filled out the federal financial aid form known as a FAFSA; have applied for and accepted all the grant-based aid for which they are eligible, such as a Pell Grant; and have applied for the new community college grant program known as Oregon Promise, which is open to recent Oregon graduates with at least a 2.5 grade point average.

Students who receive funding through Pell or Oregon Promise will not be considered part of the postgraduate scholar program. Districts will be allowed to tap state school funds only for students who aren’t covered by the other programs.

In Albany, that could mean as many as 100 fewer students able to be a part of the district’s advanced diploma program, Superintendent Jim Golden said.

Interested students are asked contact their high school counselor or Advanced Diploma Coordinator Angela Spencer at angela.spencer@albany.k12.or.us.

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Education Reporter

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