House panel backs Quigley bill benefitting online learners

Rep. Tom Quigley
Rep. Tom Quigley

HARRISBURG >> The House Education Committee has unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Tom Quigley that would make permanent a pilot program allowing students pursuing postsecondary education online to receive financial aid.

“As postsecondary online learning becomes more prevalent and effective, we must support students who are taking advantage of such technological developments in education as they work toward obtaining their degrees,” said Quigley, R-146th Dist.

In 2013, the General Assembly passed Act 59, which authorized the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) to create a five-year pilot program allowing students who take more than 50 percent of their credits online from a college or university headquartered and located in the Commonwealth to receive state grants.

During the 2014-15 grant award year, more than 5,900 students received grant awards, which totaled $8.52 million because of the pilot program.

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The program is due to end on June 30, 2018. Therefore, without a change to current law, students will no longer be eligible for financial aid offered by the state.

Quigley’s bill would allow online learners who meet all requirements to be permanently eligible for financial aid offered through the PA State Grant Program.

The bill has the support of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, Pennsylvania State University and community colleges.

It now advances to the full House for consideration.