In an effort to provide increased access to higher education in Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear announced Tuesday he has authorized more than $4 million of coal severance funds to be used for college scholarships in several colleges and universities in coal-producing areas of the state over the next two years.
The pilot project, called the Kentucky Coal County College Completion Scholarship Program, will be available beginning July 1 to college juniors and seniors, and non-traditional students seeking to complete their degrees.
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"Kentuckians recognize the importance of completing a college degree, and more and more people are pursuing higher education. That's a good sign. But the cost of attending school can be prohibitive," Gov. Beshear told WKYT News. "I'm proud that we've found a way to make sure more students can continue their studies. These coal severance fund scholarships will surely help more of our students to achieve their goal of a college degree."
The pilot project is modeled after House Bill 260, which was passed by the House of Representatives of the 2012 General Assembly, but not enacted. The grant will provide $2,050,000 in Fiscal Year 2013 and $2,250,000 in Fiscal Year 2014 for scholarships. Eligible students must be graduates or GED recipients from one of nine counties: Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin and Pike.
The authorization provides that students who apply must have earned at least 60 credit hours toward a bachelor's degree, be in good standing with their school, and be enrolled in at least six credit hours. Students must also seek all available state and federal aid. The individual scholarship amounts will be determined by the school's base tuition and fees as well as the student's existing scholarships and financial aid.
The grant will also provide a limited amount of funding for infrastructure improvements for interactive classrooms on Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) campuses to increase access to distance learning in the region.
"We need an educated workforce, and increasing the number of college graduates in our area will make a significant impact in the strength of our workforce in Pike County," said Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne Rutherford. "Our area has a low percentage of college degrees, and this pilot project will jump-start our efforts to graduate more students. We commend Governor Beshear for his swift action on this proposal."