A bill creating a new scholarship fund from coal severance tax monies has cleared a House committee this morning.
The scholarships have evolved from an original proposal that would have added the University of Pikeville into the state university system.
But the UPIKE proposal didn’t have the votes to pass, so lawmakers settled on a compromise. Under the new plan, college juniors and seniors can receive up to six thousand dollars a year to complete their bachelor degrees at any private university or public partnership in far eastern Kentucky.
And while that proposal passed the House Education Committee, state representative Leslie Combs says the discussion on UPIKE has only been delayed.
“Now what this committee substitute does is it postpones. Now notice I said postpones the discussion of making UPIKE a state institution. And thus a state institution of higher education residing in southeast Kentucky,” Combs says.
Supporters of the compromise compare the new scholarship plan to existing programs, like the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarships or the Kentucky Tuition Grant, both of which help students who go to private universities.
Former governor and current UPIKE President Paul Patton says the debate around his university becoming a state school raised important questions.
“Because that debate revealed something which was worse than I realized that it was. And that was the fact that our students are not obtaining bachelor’s degree because easy and affordable access to them do not exist in the region,” Patton says.
Supporters of the original UPIKE plan call the scholarship a step in the right direction, but they say they will continue to lobby for UPIKE to be the ninth state university.
The bill now heads to the House floor for a vote.