FRANKFORT – Looking to boost the number of high school seniors going on to college while increasing the size of the commonwealth’s trained workforce, the House of Representatives voted 86-11 this afternoon to create the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program.
“Today’s vote puts our chamber on record for supporting what I think is the most far-reaching program in postsecondary education in nearly a generation,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo, the chief sponsor of House Bill 626 said on Thursday. “If this becomes law – and I can’t imagine why anyone would vote against it – we would be giving our students and their families a way to earn a two-year degree without owing any tuition. We shouldn’t look at this as a cost; it’s an investment.”
Under this legislation, which now goes to the Senate, this year’s graduating high school seniors and every class that follows would ultimately be able to attend a KCTCS school the next fall without paying tuition, after taking into account any federal, state and local aid and scholarships they receive. Those include federal Pell grants and the lottery-based KEES money high school students earn with good grades. Student loans would not count against the incoming college freshmen.
The House budget, which the chamber approved on Wednesday, would provide about $33 million over the next two years to kick-start the program, which is projected to benefit more than 3,200 students.
During committee testimony, Kentucky Community and Technical College System President Jay K. Box said this bill “is all about the students.” He noted that the proposal would be similar to ones already in place in Tennessee, Oregon and Minnesota. Another 10 states besides Kentucky are considering joining them this year.
A further description of the bill follows.
To qualify, a student must: Be a high school graduate or receive a GED before turning 19. This includes home- and private-school students as well; Be eligible for in-state tuition; Enroll in a KCTCS school immediately after high school; Take at least 12 college credit hours per semester; Maintain a 2.0 GPA or better each school year; Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Eligibility for the scholarship would end once the student: Has received money for six semesters; Has an associate’s degree; or Is four years removed from high school.
There are provisions allowing KCTCS to grant leaves of absence for up to six months.