Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has two options to keep alive the use of coal severance tax dollars for college scholarships. Previous attempts earlier this year failed to gain traction in the General Assembly.
The Commonwealth’s Department for Local Government, through grants funded by coal severance money, offered the Governor two proposals. The first proposal from the University of Pikeville would provide scholarships for students from nine coal-producing counties. The University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg has pitched a proposal that would include students from all 25 counties in the southeast Kentucky Coal Region.
Governor Steve Beshear has created a program lawmakers could not. The governor has released four million dollars to be given as scholarships to Eastern Kentucky college students.
Lawmakers wrestled with several scholarship proposals during the last legislative session, but an agreement was never passed.
“Kentuckians recognize the importance of completing a college degree, and more and more people are pursuing higher education," says Beshear in a release. "That’s a good sign. But the cost of attending school can be prohibitive. 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."
To qualify for the scholarships, students must be from any of the following counties: Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin or Pike. They must also be juniors, seniors or nontraditional students in schools in those counties, including: the University of Pikeville, Alice Lloyd College or satellite campuses of Morehead State University, Lindsey Wilson, UPIKE or Lincoln Memorial.
The initial program will begin on July 1 and last two years.
The program also helps pay for some distance learning development with the state’s community college system.
“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,” Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne Rutherford says. “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.”