FRANKFORT – House Speaker Greg Stumbo and state Rep. Leslie Combs joined with University of Pikeville President Paul Patton Monday to unveil a new plan to boost bachelor’s degrees in Eastern Kentucky.
Under the proposed revisions to House Bill 260 – which initially sought to bring the University of Pikeville into the state public postsecondary system – the state would award grants as high as $6,000 to students from the region who obtain a four-year college degree from a four-year institution that is also based in the region and up to $2,000 for a state university that has a qualified satellite campus in the region.
“My goal all along has been to increase the number of people from the mountains who want to get a four-year college degree while staying close to home, and this plan would be a major step forward in achieving that goal,” said Speaker Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, the bill’s primary co-sponsor.
“I will keep pushing to bring the University of Pikeville into the state postsecondary system, but for now, this middle ground will still help us meet the same goal of getting our region’s college-graduation rate up,” said Rep. Combs, D-Pikeville, the bill’s sponsor.
“While I still think having a state university in and dedicated to meeting the educational needs of the entire coal-producing region of Eastern Kentucky is vital to the long range welfare of the area, the compromise Representative Combs has proposed addresses the immediate problem of inadequate bachelor degree attainment of our high school graduates and gives them the option of getting a high quality bachelor degree in their home region,” said UPike President Paul Patton. “That was one of the objectives of HB 260 as first proposed.”
The revised legislation, which will be before the House Education Committee tomorrow morning, would only affect a 16-county area in Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky. Students who graduate from a high school or obtain a GED in the area – and have earned at least 60 college credit hours – would be eligible for a Kentucky Appalachian College Completion (KACC) grant to continue their education at a public or private college in the region that offers bachelor degree programs.
The grants would be funded with coal severance tax funds and private donations, and the student would have to be enrolled at least half-time at a participating school. Grants would be based in part on how many grants and scholarships a student has, but schools would be barred from lowering any financial assistance they provide because of the KACC program.
The most a student could receive is $6,000 if he or she attends a private, non-profit independent college in the area and up to $2,000 if attending a public postsecondary campus there.
In addition to helping students in college, the revised bill would also establish a student services program to further extend outreach services into the region’s high schools, with the goal of getting more students to obtain a bachelor’s degree, especially in the region. This outreach program would apply to four schools that are part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.