In an effort to provide increased access to higher education in Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear today announced his authorization of 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.
"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," said Gov. Beshear. "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 scholarships will benefit students attending the main campuses of the University of Pikeville (UPIKE) and Alice Lloyd College, or the extension campuses of Morehead State University (Prestonsburg), Lincoln Memorial University, Lindsey Wilson College and UPIKE.
"I want to commend Gov. Patton for his commitment to increase baccalaureate degree completion in eastern Kentucky, and Gov. Beshear for his willingness to support this pilot project," said Robert King, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education. "We look forward to working with all of the institutions serving the region to find models that can be applied across Kentucky."
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."
Multi-County Local Government Economic Development Funds (LGEDF)/Coal Severance Funds are a portion of coal severance taxes set aside to fund projects benefiting two or more coal-producing counties and are administered through the Department for Local Government.
The Pike County and Knott County Fiscal Courts submitted the application for the two-year pilot project.
In December, Gov. Beshear authorized a study on the feasibility of adding the UPIKE to the state's university system. That report, submitted in March, confirmed that there are unmet educational needs in southeastern Kentucky and its recommendations supported an initiative utilizing severance tax revenues to expand access and enrollment to higher education in that region.