House bill would provide free tuition for KCTCS students

03/02/2016 01:42 PM

FRANKFORT – A House bill which would provide free tuition for graduating high school students attending the state’s community and technical colleges was unveiled on Wednesday by House leaders.

House Bill 626, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, would ensure tuition for Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) school would be free for qualified students, after factoring in scholarships and state and federal grants each eligible student receives.

Student loans and work-study programs do not count against the scholarship.

The program would begin this fall, meaning graduating high school seniors in 2016 would be the first class to qualify.

To qualify, a student must:

  • Be a high graduate or receive a GED before turning 19
  • Be eligible for in-state tuition
  • Enroll in a KCTCS school immediately after high school
  • Take at least 12 credit hours a semester and maintain a 2.0 or better GPA each semester

*Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA)

Eligibility for the scholarship would end once the student:

  • Has received money for six semesters
  • Has an associate’s degree
  • Is four years removed from high school

There are provisions allowing KCTCS to grant leaves of absence for up to six months.

It’s estimated that the anticipated cost of the program would be about $13 million in the first year and close to $20 million in the second.

Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, said the cost of financing the program can be done without borrowing.

“If you look at the governor’s budget, he’s created a pool of money, about $700 million that we believe needs to be invested now,” Rand said. “We thought this was a good way to invest that money.”

Stumbo said that the legislation could a have big impact on postsecondary education saying that it could put a two-year college degree within easy reach of every graduating high school student in Kentucky.

“Work Ready Kentucky gives every child, all across Kentucky, not only the opportunity to go to school close to home, but to get ready to go to our 4-year public institutions or private institutions,” Stumbo said. “It gives them a jump start to get ready to compete in what we know is going to be a very competitive world of the 21st and 22nd centuries.”

KCTS President Jay K. Fox says that the program would eliminate the current feeling of a lot of Kentucky high school students that higher education is out of reach because of cost.

“Yes, we have financial aid for those who qualify, but there are others that don’t qualify for all of the financial aid benefits,” Fox said. “This new program fills that gap.”

Rand said that work Ready Kentucky is aimed at primarily the middle class families of the state who tend to not qualify for financial aid and are forced to take own student loans and accumulating a great load of debt.

“We don’t want cost to be a barrier to any of those students that maybe don’t qualify for higher federal assistance, but maybe don’t have the family income to pay that difference, or they would have to borrow the money and create student loans and we’re trying to avoid that as well,” Rand said.

Rand expects the bill to be heard in committee on Tuesday.


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