Legislation sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo and state Rep. Leslie Combs to boost the number of bachelor’s degrees in coal-producing counties took a step closer to becoming law this morning, when the House of Representatives’ Education Committee voted unanimously for House Bill 2.
The legislation would make a pilot program begun by Governor Beshear in 2012 permanent and expand its coverage area to include all 34 coal-producing counties.
“The governor’s program has shown that there is a lot of demand, especially in the eastern part of the state, from students who want to pursue their four-year degree close to home,” said House Speaker Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “If we can make this program permanent, and double the scholarship amount as Governor Beshear proposes, I am confident we will see these numbers increase significantly.”
Rep. Combs, a Pikeville legislator who worked for years as chief financial officer at what is now the University of Pikeville, agreed. “Studies show that students in our region are attending college at a rate well above the state average, but for a variety of reasons are not continuing their education to get that four-year degree. This program, however, is giving them an additional incentive, and it will better ensure that they remain close to home once they complete their education.”
The legislation is virtually identical to Rep. Combs’ bill last year that passed the House unanimously but did not clear the Senate until it was too late to send the bill to Governor Beshear.
If it becomes law, students would need to meet several criteria before being eligible for a grant:
· Live in a coal-producing county at least a year;
· Have at least 60 credit hours at a qualifying school; and
· Be 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 would vary, depending on how much financial aid the student already receives. The most a student could receive a year is $6,800 to attend a non-profit, independent four-year college and $2,300 to attend a satellite campus of a public four-year university or a regional postsecondary center. There also would be grant money available if the student’s degree program is not available in a coal-producing county.
Under Governor Beshear’s proposed budget, which the House is now considering, the pilot program would get $2 million in Multi-County Fund coal-severance dollars a year. So far, more than 540 students have taken advantage of the program, and nearly 100 received a bachelor’s degree in the 2013 school year.
House Bill 2 will now be considered by the full House.
HB 2 BILL SUMMARY
KENTUCKY COAL COUNTY COLLEGE COMPLETION PROGRAM
HB 2 provides 1) scholarships for students from coal-producing counties attending higher education institutions located in those counties to encourage bachelor’s degree completion and students to remain in the area and 2) grants to community and technical colleges for improving outreach and advising services.
HB 2 is different from 2013 HB 210 (passed the House 97-0) in the following ways:
· The maximum scholarship amounts were increased 3% to correspond with the increase in tuition at the public comprehensive universities from 2012-2013 to 2013-2014.
· References to academic year 2013-2014 were updated to 2014-2015.
· The first annual report submission date was updated from 2014 to 2015.
(The coal county scholarship language contained in SCA 1 to 2013 HB 160 language, which passed the Senate 34-4, mirrored the HB 210 language.)
· The program “district” is comprised of the following 34 coal-producing counties in eastern and western Kentucky (as of January 2014): Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Clay, Daviess, Elliott, Floyd, Hancock, Harlan, Henderson, Hopkins, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Morgan, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Union, Webster, Whitley, and Wolfe.
Kentucky Coal County College Completion Scholarship
Student Eligibility Students must:
Ø Be at least a one-year resident of the district;
Ø Have earned at least 60 credits toward a bachelor’s degree; and
Ø Be enrolled at least half-time in upper division courses in a bachelor’s degree program at an eligible institution in the district.
· Students may use the grant to attend certain public or independent institutions outside the district if they are pursuing a program of study not offered by any institution in the district (limited to 5% of the amount appropriated for the scholarships).
· A student may receive the scholarship for up to five full-time fall or spring semesters or their equivalent.
· Eligible higher education institutions must be physically located in the district, offer bachelor’s degree programs, and be:
Ø An independent, nonprofit college or university whose main campus is based in the district;
Ø A four-year public university extension campus; or
Ø A regional postsecondary education center.
Ø Independent Institutions: Alice Lloyd College, Brescia University, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Union College, University of the Cumberlands, and University of Pikeville.
Ø Four-Year Public Extension Campuses: EKU – Corbin, Manchester, and Somerset; Morehead State – Ashland, Prestonsburg, and West Liberty; Murray State – Henderson and Madisonville; and WKU – Owensboro.
Ø Regional Postsecondary Education Centers: North East (Floyd), South East (Laurel), and University Center of the Mountains (Perry).
· The scholarship amount is determined on a per student basis. It will be 40% of the amount remaining after subtracting the student’s federal and state grants and scholarships (i.e., PELL, CAP, KTG, KEES) from the institution’s tuition and mandatory fees.
· The maximum annual grant amounts are:
Ø $6,800 for attending a nonprofit, independent institution;
Ø $2,300 for attending a public university extension campus or regional postsecondary education center; and
Ø $3,400 for attending an institution outside the district for a program of study not offered in the district.
· The maximum grant amounts will be increased each academic year by the total average percentage increase in tuition at the six comprehensive universities.
Kentucky Coal County College Completion Student Services Grants
· The program provides annual maximum $150,000 grants to Kentucky Community and Technical College System institutions located in the district – Ashland, Big Sandy, Hazard, Henderson, Madisonville, Owensboro, Somerset, and Southeast.
· The grants are for expanding outreach to students in high schools; advising resources; and retention, completion, and transfer initiatives.
Funding and Administration
· The program will be funded by coal severance taxes (Local Government Economic Development Fund/Single & Multi-County Funds).
· The program will be administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.