KET Legislative Coverage

Day 24: Improving Coalfields by Degrees

by Renee Shaw | 02/11/14 1:29 PM

Eager to boost the number of students in Kentucky's coalfields who earn four-year college degree, the House cleared a bill yesterday to expand a pilot scholarship program.

House Bill 2, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) and Rep.Leslie Combs (D-Pikeville), would expand and put into law the Kentucky Coal County College Completion Program. Gov. Steve Beshear implemented a pilot version of the idea in nine Appalachian counties in 2012.

The full program would make scholarships available to students in the state's 34 coal-producing counties in eastern and western Kentucky. Combs explained how the plan would encourage coalfield college students to earn bachelor degrees.

To support 500 scholarships, the governor's proposed budget allocates $2 million each year for the program.

In testimony before the House Education Committee last Tuesday, Stumbo reminded lawmakers how the measure had its origins in the failed effort to make the private University of Pikeville a state-run school.

Stumbo said the University of Pikeville and the state's public regional universities are supportive of the Coal County College Completion Program. In his testimony last week, he explained how the scholarship initiative would close a gap in baccalaureate degree attainment among coalfield students.

The House passed HB 2 Monday, 92-0. It now advances to the Senate.

Watch Legislative Update, Monday through Thursday nights at 11, and Fridays at 11:30 p.m. on KET. Follow me on Twitter @ReneeKET for updates throughout the day.