Hefner Delivers New Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

May 24, 2024
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OKLAHOMA CITY – House Bill 3792 authored by Rep. Ellyn Hefner, D-Oklahoma City, was signed by Governor Kevin Stitt. The law creates the Oklahoma Access and Achievement Act, which expands Oklahoma Promise to set up scholarships for Oklahomans to attend qualified post-secondary programs designed to support students with intellectual disabilities. 

These programs at state schools increase development and growth of academic, work, and personal skills, along with independent living, friendships, and self-advocacy. The outcome data shows program participants are employed post-graduation at significantly higher rates with higher average wages.

Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, and Sen. Ally Seifried, R-Claremore, helped in the passage of this bill. 

“This bill was in collaboration with the State Regents, CareerTech, our great state schools, and families and students who attend these programs,” said Hefner. “This new law is a result of two years of workshopping legislation through two interim studies at the house and numerous conversations with stakeholders. I am proud we were able to work across the aisle to provide real solutions for Oklahomans. Thank you to all who put in time and effort to create new opportunities for Oklahomans.”

“The State Regents and our public colleges and universities continue innovating to create additional pathways for students to earn degrees and credentials and join our educated workforce,” said Oklahoma State System of Higher Education Chancellor Allison Garrett.

“HB 3792 helps to provide the resources to learners with disabilities that desire life changing post-secondary training. We are excited to help bring more people opportunities to be in productive careers,” said State Director of Oklahoma Career Tech Brett Haken. 

Many higher education institutes have also celebrated the signing of the bill.

“Students with intellectual disability in Oklahoma have increased opportunities to attend college, with the development and growth of three inclusive post-secondary education programs across the state. HB 3792 is a huge step to increasing financial access for students with intellectual disability wanting to attend programs like Opportunity Orange Scholars,” said Emily Tucker, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice Program Director Opportunity Orange Scholars.

“This will allow more students with disabilities to access college which we know leads to greater levels of employment and independent living,” Professor and Executive Director of Special Education at the University of Oklahoma Dr. Kendra Williams-Diehm said. “This bill is a real game changer.”

"We are thrilled here at Northeastern State University and the Riverhawks Scholar Program, and we support HB 3792 100%,” said Director of Riverhawks Scholar Program Justin Chase. “We feel like it would open the doors to college for students with disabilities to a whole segment of the Oklahoma population that's not previously been available due to the financial restraints." 

Oklahoma House of Representatives seal