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Harris’ 21st Century Scholars bill passed through committee

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House Bill 1449, authored by State Rep. Earl Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago) was passed unanimously through the Education Committee. A piece of priority legislation for the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC), the bill would automatically enroll eligible Hoosiers into the 21st Century Scholars Program.

Established in 1990 and championed by Democrats Rep. Stan Jones and Gov. Evan Bayh, the 21st Century Scholars program provides low-income students who meet certain academic criteria with full scholarships to Indiana colleges and universities. Currently, eligible students must sign up for the program during middle school. Harris' bill would automatically enroll those students into the program, lifting the burden from Hoosier families to know if they are eligible and fill out the lengthy paperwork.

“I hear from parents all the time who are getting ready to send their kids to college and looking for ways to fund their kid's education,” Harris said. “So often, they've never even heard of 21st Century Scholars. This bill provides us a wonderful opportunity to help Hoosier families afford a higher education for their children, and I'm very thankful to Chairman Bob Behning for hearing the bill in committee.”

Behning (R-Indianapolis), chair of the House Education Committee, was recently listed as a co-author of the bill, along with State Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) and State Rep. Michelle Davis (R- Greenwood).

“Not only am I thankful to see an IBLC priority move through committee,” Harris, chair of the IBLC, continued, “I'm thankful that this long-held Democratic Party policy is now getting bipartisan support. With Gov. Eric Holcomb mentioning this policy change in his State of the State address this year to both Democrats and Republicans adding their names and ideas to this bill, everyone in the state benefits when our legislature can work together to get things done for Hoosiers.”

Now out of the committee, the bill will be heard before the full House of Representatives.

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