A bill introduced by State Senator Angus McKelvey (District 6 - West Maui, Mā’alaea, Waikapū, South Maui), aimed at extending college benefits to the disabled community, has been signed into law.
The measure, Senate Bill 1151 SD2 HD1 CD1, will expand the provisions of the Promise Program, allowing more individuals to access educational opportunities at UH Maui College and other community colleges across the state.
Senator Angus McKelvey expressed his gratitude to Governor Green for swiftly signing the bill into law, emphasizing the importance of providing young people with the time to benefit from the new provisions being made to the Promise Program. SB1151 SD2 HD1 CD1 eliminates the requirement for students enrolled in certificate programs to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA), enabling them to qualify for funding from the existing program.
While the legislation will benefit all students in certificate programs, it is particularly significant for the disabled community, as it aims to advance their educational opportunities within the community college system. Senator McKelvey acknowledged the State Council on Developmental Disabilities and its members for raising awareness of the additional hardships faced by disabled students in completing the FASFA, despite it not being required by the federal government for them to receive scholarship support in certificate programs.
Expanding the accessibility of the Promise Program to members of the disabled community aligns with the moral imperative of providing equal educational opportunities for all young individuals. Senator McKelvey, one of the co-authors who helped establish the original Promise Program, sees this new law as an extension and growth of the program, ensuring that its benefits reach as many eligible students as possible.
In its testimony supporting the bill, the State Council on Developmental Disabilities stated, “We support a Self Advocacy Advisory Council with over 200 individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). By talking with them, we have learned, the ones who attended higher education, did it on a half-time basis. The majority enrolled in certificate programs. When we asked if they applied for the Promise Program, some stated they had not, because they had to first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which they thought they could not apply for it because they weren’t enrolled full-time at the Community College.
While the other self-advocates expressed, the process to apply for the FAFSA was too hard.” Their input and advocacy played a pivotal role in highlighting the need for this legislation.
The newly enacted law holds the promise of increased educational opportunities for the disabled community, aligning with the ongoing investment in education to further strengthen the success achieved through this mechanism.