DOVER — An extended, affordable opportunity for in-state students to attend Delaware State University may be coming after the House Education Committee released proposed legislation on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 95 would increase the value of a DSU Inspire Scholarship to cover the full cost of tuition at the school. The Senate approved the legislation by a 21-0 vote on April 27 and the House committee released it unanimously on Wednesday to conclude a 3 1/2 hour session that included several other bills.
During the hearing, prime sponsor Rep. Stephanie Bolden, D-Wilmington, discussed the merits of the legislation, along with lead sponsor Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover.
According to the original synopsis, SB 95 “will provide Delaware students with strong academic credentials and a demonstrated commitment to volunteer public service to receive scholarship monies sufficient to cover the full cost of tuition at Delaware State University. The intent of this bill is to increase the number of students in Delaware who not only attend the University but who successfully complete degree programs.”
The discussion came on the same day that DSU announced that it will cancel nearly $750,000 in student debt for recent graduates who have faced financial challenges due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
University President Dr. Tony Allen expressed optimism about SB 95 during remarks before the committee.
“This particular new piece extending it to full tuition is important for us,” he said. “We believe it’s going to (bring) a 17 percent increase or more potential Inspire scholars coming to the university and it’s going to build capacity for us for any Delaware high school senior who wants to choose Delaware State University for their learning environment.
“We’re excited about the opportunity and appreciate the continued support and see it as the next thoughtful evolution for Delaware State University ...”
Four proposed House bills were on the agenda Wednesday, including No. 163 that would, according to a synopsis, require “schools to excuse a pupil’s absence for observance of a religious holiday, and further requires districts and charters to have a policy discouraging teachers from scheduling tests, presentations and the like on days where some students may be absent for a religious holiday.
“A pupil who does miss a grading event must be allowed to make-up the test or otherwise recover credit. The Department of Education is directed to promulgate rules and regulations relating to implementation of this Act, including a list of holidays on which an absence for religious observance must be excused.”
While Rep. Richard Collins, R-Millsboro, said there was much “undefined” in the proposal and that he’d “like to have more knowledge on what we’re voting for,” sponsor Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, D-Newark, said she would work with the Department of Education and other agencies to establish more details before the bill comes to the floor.
Rep. Wilson-Anton, a practicing Muslim, said her purpose was to make sure all student have the same ability to observe their holidays.
HB 163 was released from the committee by a 15-1 vote. Rep. Collins cast the lone dissenting vote.
Sponsor Rep. Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow introduced HB 175, which would allow students one excused absence per school year to attend civic engagements. An amendment had been written and would be entered, Rep. Morrison said.
“The purpose of this bill it to get all students engaged in their activities,” he said.
The bill was released from the committee by a 14-1 vote.