Kentucky's Coal County College Students Receive Financial Boost
Two-and-a-half years after creating a pilot scholarship program to help college students in eastern Kentucky complete their bachelor’s degree close to home, Gov. Steve Beshear ceremonially signed House Bill 2, legislation that permanently extends the scholarship program to all coal counties.
“Giving college students the tools they need to complete their degree has been a top priority of my administration,” Gov. Beshear said at the University of Pikeville. “House Bill 2 is a major step forward in achieving that goal, especially in those areas of the state where access and affordability are difficult hurdles for many to overcome. We’re already seeing this legislation have an impact, with eastern Kentucky leading the way.”
Joining Gov. Beshear at the bill signing were the bill’s sponsor, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, of Prestonsburg; UPIKE President Dr. James Hurley; former Governor and current UPIKE Chancellor Paul Patton; and Jared Arnett, the executive director for SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region).
The General Assembly passed HB 2 unanimously during this year’s legislative session. It expands the initial nine-county pilot program Gov. Beshear authorized in 2012 to all 34 coal-producing counties. The current two-year budget provides $2 million annually in Multi-County Coal Severance funds, which will provide up to 500 scholarships each year. In the pilot program’s first year, nearly 100 participating students completed their bachelor’s degree.
“The Governor’s program showed that there is a lot of demand, especially in the eastern part of the state, from students who want to get their four-year degree near where they live,” House Speaker Stumbo said. “I was proud to work alongside Gov. Beshear, Rep. Leslie Combs, Gov. Patton and many others to help make this possible. Our students deserve this opportunity, and I am convinced that this law will pay dividends for generations to come.”
“I commend Gov. Beshear and the Kentucky legislature for the passage of House Bill 2,” said President Hurley. “We worked many tireless hours on creating opportunities, access and affordability for the students who reside in coal-producing counties. I am confident this scholarship will increase educational attainment in the commonwealth.”
Students have to meet several criteria to be eligible for the Kentucky Coal County College Completion Program scholarship, including:
•Living in a coal-producing county at least a year;
•Having completed at least 60 college credit hours; and
•Being enrolled at least half-time in upper-level courses at a qualifying postsecondary school that is either based in a coal-producing county or has a satellite campus there.
The amount of each grant varies, depending on how much financial aid the student already receives. The most a student can receive a year is $6,800 to attend a nonprofit, independent four-year college and $2,300 to attend a satellite campus of a public four-year university or a regional postsecondary center. There is also money available if the student’s degree program is not available in a coal-producing county.
In addition, the law includes authority for grants to KCTCS schools in the coal regions to expand their student outreach, advising, retention, and transfer initiatives.
Story provided by Governor Steve Beshear's Communications Office