Legislature(1999 - 2000)

05/14/1999 08:12 AM Senate FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 167                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to scholarships to attend the                                                                                  
University of Alaska; establishing the Alaska scholars                                                                          
program; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                  
This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate                                                                          
Finance Committee. This bill relates to the University of                                                                       
Alaska's new program to grant scholarships to the top ten                                                                       
percent of each Alaskan high school's graduation class.                                                                         
Co-Chair John Torgerson explained the proposed committee                                                                        
substitute, CS SB 167 1-LS0900/G 5/13/99, before the                                                                            
members, which eliminates from statute, the Alaska scholars                                                                     
program. In addition, the committee substitute maintains                                                                        
the objective to allow information to be released from                                                                          
school districts to the University of Alaska for the                                                                            
purpose of notifying students who are eligible for the new                                                                      
scholarship program.                                                                                                            
Co-Chair John Torgerson explained that this committee                                                                           
substitute is necessary to place provisions into AS 14.40                                                                       
to comply with a federal law that limits the release of                                                                         
educational records that contain personally identifiable                                                                        
Co-Chair John Torgerson stated he would make available a                                                                        
legal opinion relating to SB 167 written by Mike Ford,                                                                          
Legal Council at the Division of Legal and Research                                                                             
Services. [Copy on file] Co-Chair John Torgerson read a                                                                         
portion of the memo into the record where Mike Ford stated,                                                                     
"I find no reason why the legislature could not chose to                                                                        
provide for the release of this kind of educational record.                                                                     
While the federal law does limit the release of educational                                                                     
records that contain personally identifiable information                                                                        
(see 20 U.S.C. 1232g), this law also contains an exception                                                                      
for the release of an educational record for the purpose of                                                                     
applying for financial aid (see 20 U.S.C. 1232g(b)(1)(D))."                                                                     
Senator Gary Wilken moved to adopt CS SB 167 1-LS0900/G                                                                         
5/13/99 as a Workdraft. There was no objection and it was                                                                       
so ordered.                                                                                                                     
Senator Gary Wilken moved for adoption of Amendment #1. Co-                                                                     
Chair John Torgerson objected for the purpose of                                                                                
explanation.  Senator Gary Wilken referred to page two,                                                                         
line 11 of the committee substitute noting the amendment                                                                        
inserts, "for each scholarship program" following                                                                               
".students.who meet scholarship eligibility requirements".                                                                      
This limits the release of names and addresses of students                                                                      
relevant to individual scholarship programs, he explained.                                                                      
Senator Gary Wilken explained the second part of the                                                                            
amendment inserts new paragraphs on page two following line                                                                     
13 of the committee substitute. The new paragraphs provide                                                                      
that school districts shall amend their policies as                                                                             
necessary to comply with the bill but that a school                                                                             
district shall not provide the information if the student                                                                       
or parent objects. He said this is the provision that                                                                           
allows school districts to release the student's names and                                                                      
information and to comply with the federal Family                                                                               
Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).                                                                                     
Senator Randy Phillips asked if this bill is the result of                                                                      
a new federal law and who was the prime sponsor of that                                                                         
federal law.                                                                                                                    
WENDY REDMOND, Vice President, University Relations,                                                                            
University of Alaska, replied that the federal law is not                                                                       
new and has been around for over a decade.  She explained                                                                       
this is the first time Alaska had ever come up against the                                                                      
FERPA law and is because of the University's attempt to                                                                         
award scholarships to the top ten-percent of graduating                                                                         
high school students. She said some of the school districts                                                                     
would not release the names to the University citing that                                                                       
the federal law prohibits them from doing so. She told the                                                                      
Committee that the University's legal council determined                                                                        
FERPA provides an adequate allowance so the schools can                                                                         
release the names for financial aid purposes. However, she                                                                      
pointed out, the school districts' attorneys argued that a                                                                      
state law is also needed.                                                                                                       
Senator Randy Phillips asked if the issue of compliance was                                                                     
raised by the local school districts.  Wendy Redmond                                                                            
responded that the compliance issue was raised by some of                                                                       
the districts.                                                                                                                  
Co-Chair John Torgerson clarified that this matter came up                                                                      
because of the University's new scholarship program. Wendy                                                                      
Redmond confirmed that the current scholarship is awarded                                                                       
to the one, top-graduating senior from each high school and                                                                     
is granted only after the qualifying student applies for                                                                        
it. The new program is broader and entails the University                                                                       
notifying all qualified students of their eligibility for                                                                       
the scholarship. Because of the notification process, the                                                                       
University needs to know who those qualifying students are,                                                                     
stressed Wendy Redmond.                                                                                                         
Senator Randy Phillips wanted to know if the school                                                                             
districts were claiming a right to privacy.  Wendy Redmond                                                                      
said the school districts were only saying they were afraid                                                                     
to release the information because of restrictions in the                                                                       
FERPA law. She explained that most school districts send                                                                        
notification to students' families at the beginning of each                                                                     
school year asking permission to use the student's name in                                                                      
a school directory. Parent's who sign the form are signing                                                                      
a basic FERPA release, according to Wendy Redmond.                                                                              
Senator Dave Donley wanted to know if, in order for the                                                                         
information to be given from the high school to the                                                                             
University, the student had to sign a release.  Wendy                                                                           
Redmond answered it was the parents who signed the release.                                                                     
Senator Dave Donley asked if therefore, the University                                                                          
wouldn't get a complete list of all qualifying students                                                                         
because some students' families would chose to not release                                                                      
that information. Wendy Redmond replied the University                                                                          
wanted to leave that option available to the parents and                                                                        
that is the reason AS 14.43.930(d) is proposed in Amendment                                                                     
provide to the board the name of a student if the parent of                                                                     
the student objects to the disclosure."                                                                                         
Senator Dave Donley wanted to know what prevented the                                                                           
University from selling the information received to other                                                                       
universities or otherwise distributing it.  He asked what                                                                       
controls govern the information once the University of                                                                          
Alaska receives it. Wendy Redmond responded that there were                                                                     
no provisions in statute or in regulations but that keeping                                                                     
the information confidential is just common sense. She                                                                          
added that the University is also held under FERPA                                                                              
requirements to keep student information confidential.                                                                          
Senator Dave Donley wanted assurance that this information                                                                      
would not be sold by the University. Wendy Redmond promised                                                                     
that the University of Alaska would never sell the                                                                              
Senator Lyda Green said this was no different from                                                                              
information going to other scholarship programs. She                                                                            
explained that a lot of information was gathered by                                                                             
scholarship review committees and was kept guarded.  She                                                                        
didn't want the Committee to lose sight of the honorable                                                                        
intent to provide scholarships to Alaskans.                                                                                     
Senator Randy Phillips said this was the first time he had                                                                      
seen the bill.                                                                                                                  
Senator Gary Wilken referred to a letter from the                                                                               
University of Alaska Scholars Program [Copy on file]                                                                            
stating that from the participating school districts, 181                                                                       
students plan to take advantage of the scholarship. Senator                                                                     
Gary Wilken commented that the question remained as to how                                                                      
many of those students would have attended the University                                                                       
of Alaska without the scholarship program in place. He                                                                          
stressed that this bill is an attempt to get the quality                                                                        
students to attend the University.  He knew students                                                                            
followed their peers and that this also applied to where                                                                        
they go to college. He expected that in five years the                                                                          
State would wonder what it ever did without the program.                                                                        
Amendment #1 was adopted without objection.                                                                                     
Senator Gary Wilken offered a motion to move from                                                                               
committee, CS SB 167 (FIN) Version "G" as amended with                                                                          
individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note.                                                                        
There was no objection and the bill was reported out of                                                                         
AT EASE 8:30AM / 8:59 AM                                                                                                        
Co-Chair John Torgerson made a brief announcement that HB
40 would not be heard at this meeting. Members were working                                                                     
on drafting amendments to SB 67 and the meeting would come                                                                      
back to order when they were ready.                                                                                             
AT EASE 9:00AM / 9:57AM                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects