By JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
PIKEVILLE, Ky. - If you graduated from a coal-producing county in Kentucky, and you have 60 credit hours, you qualify for what could be thousands of dollars in assistance to earn a Bachelor’s Degree.
University of Pikeville President Paul Patton, Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford, Representatives Greg Stumbo and Leslie Combs and Randy Roberts with Big Sandy Community and Technical College hosted a forum Monday to share the details of the Kentucky Coal County College Completion Scholarship Fund (K4C$).
“We have brain drain,” Rutherford said. “Our young people go to these other universities, and they don’t come back; we need to change that.”
The University of Pikeville attempted to be designated a state supported university. As such, UPike would have been able to lower tuition, as state supported universities receive financial support from the state, Patton explained. However, UPike was not given that designation, and so remains a private school, with higher tuition.
Patton said that price tag can be a obstacle for Eastern Kentucky students who want to earn a four-year degree. So while Legislators did not name UPike a state supported institution, Frankfort did agree to put millions of dollars in coal severance funds into the K4C$.
Rep. Leslie Combs helped create the bill that created K4C$ through the Legislature.
“There was enough in HB 260 that Gov. Beshear thought we needed to do a pilot program,” Combs said. “We educated people about what we were trying to do, and came up with a plan that uses our own, not the taxpayers, money.”
The scholarship will be equal to 40 percent of the difference between the tuition and the total of state and federal aid a student receives. At UPike, that could mean up to $6,820.
Patton said research shows 30 percent of jobs require a Bachelor’s degree. Nationally, 28 percent of the population attains a four-year degree, 22 percent in Kentucky. But in Eastern Kentucky, only 12 percent of people do.
“We cannot get ahead as long as that number stays so low,” Patton said.
Rep. Stumbo said education was important to students in the region.
“Eastern Kentucky puts as many kids in college as anyone in the state,” Stumbo said. “But we don’t have a four-year college, there is no doubt that we fall behind. Hopefully someday we will make UPike public, but there was opposition from the other public universities, they had had their budgets cut. But as things get better, we will keep making our case. Having a public university in a community significantly raises its per capita income, it is a real region-changer.”