A bill was recently passed by the Kentucky House that would guarantee two years of free tuition at community colleges and technical schools in the state for eligible high school graduates.
Sponsored by Speaker Greg Stumbo, HB 626 requires students maintain a 2.0 grade point average, apply for all available financial aid, and enroll in at least 12 credit hours per semester. After the other aid is deducted, the state will pay the remaining balance on the tuition bill. It will apply to all students who graduate from a Kentucky high school, home school, or obtain their GED in the state.
Referred to as the Work Force Ready Scholarship Program, the initiative, which is similar to the model currently in use in Tennessee called the "Tennessee Promise," will come with a price tag of $13 million for the first year, and $19.9 million the year after that, covering the next two-year budget cycle. It is funded in the budget bill that was approved by the House last week.
Stumbo believes the bill could help between 15,000 and 18,000 students in the first year alone. "It's a lot of money but think of the bang you get for the dollar," he said.
Many have criticized the bill so far, with some saying that students should have to pay some form of tuition, while others believe the 2.0 GPA requirement is too low, writes Ronnie Ellis for The Daily Independent. Critics argue the requirement should be raised to a GPA of at least 2.5, which is the level students must meet in order to maintain a Kentucky Education Excellence Scholarship (KEES).
"If we have low expectations, our children will rise to where we expect them to," said Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown.
However, Rep. Tommy Thompson believes the program will allow for the creation of a more skilled workforce, offering more workers to employers and income and careers to students. "They're going to start generating economic activity in our state because we invested in them," Thompson said.
According to Rep. Rick Nelson, students earn scholarships like the one recently approved through the lottery-funded KEES Scholarships awarded for good grades, reports Joseph Gerth for The Courier-Journal.
After an 86-11 vote, the bill was approved by the House and is on its way to the Senate for its consideration.
A separate bill that would require individual and small group insurers to cover autism spectrum disorders also recently passed in the state House, sponsored by Rep. Sannie Overly.
Minority Leader Jeff Hoover is seeking an amendment to the bill that would require insurers to offer a liaison that would help the insured party to deal with the insurer. He had previously proposed the idea in a separate bill, but said it was never heard in committee.
However, Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards called the amendment a "piggyback," or language from another bill, and was as such out of order, saying Overly had requested the move.
Although Hoover said the inclusion was meant to help children with autism, and was not about him, in the end he voted for Overly's bill.