Lawmakers have reached a compromise on a proposal to create more educational opportunities in eastern Kentucky.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo has been advocating to move the University of Pikeville into the state university system. But that proposal doesn’t currently have the support to become reality, which forces supporters to adopt a compromise.
That compromise would set up a scholarship for up to six thousand dollars a year from multi-county coal severance tax funds. The funds would be available for juniors and seniors in 16 counties to attend private colleges–like UPIKE.
But the scholarship would not force recipients to stay in that region after graduation.
“With an undergraduate degree it’s entirely different, they have to go where the jobs are. So, I think after some debate they decided it would be better to allow those monies to flow as grants, as scholarships, as grants not loans to be forgiven,” Stumbo says.
Stumbo says the scholarship fund to retain students is a good first step. But he says he’s not giving up on eventually bringing UPIKE into the state system.
“Nobody disputes that that region has been historically, chronically underserved. No one disputes that the attainment levels are less than half than the state averages and more than half of the national averages. So I think it’s imperative something be done as rapidly as possible. I mean it just gets worse and worse and worse if we don’t address it so hopefully we can address it this session and move on,” he says.
The new compromise is expected to come up in tomorrow’s House Education Committee. Stumbo says he believes the new compromise will get the support needed to pass it out of committee and off the House floor.
The sixteen county region allowed to participate includes: Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Lawrence, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Perry, Pike, and Whitley counties.