The floor general in the state House has urged Morehead State University graduates to oppose the current version of a bill that would make the private University of Pike ville a state-supported school.
The move by House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, is a rare break with the top leader in the chamber, Speaker Greg Stumbo.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, is the lead sponsor of House Bill 260, which would make the private, four-year Pikeville college a public institution and use coal-severance tax money to support it.
The House Education Committee is scheduled to begin discussing the bill Tuesday.
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Adkins, who played basketball at Morehead State and earned undergraduate and master's degrees there, recorded a telephone message that was sent to alumni of the school over the weekend.
The call asked Morehead grads to oppose HB 260, which the school's regents went on record against last week.
"I was just asking our alumni to get in the game," Adkins said.
A key concern among Morehead State supporters is that the school would lose students, and therefore money, under the UPike proposal.
HB 260 would set up a 12-county service area around Pikeville and use coal-severance money to operate the school. The school's tuition would drop from about $17,000 this fall to $7,000.
Eight of the counties in UPike's proposed territory are in Morehead State's 22-county service area. Adkins said there are 1,900 Morehead State students from those eight counties. Total enrollment is more than 9,000, according to the school's Web site.
Supporters argue the move would make a college education accessible to many more people in far Eastern Kentucky and thereby boost the economy of one of the state's poorest areas. But Adkins said he thinks the bill would put the two schools in competition for students, rather than bring in new students.
Adkins said he has a degree in education and his father was a teacher, so he strongly supports affordable access to education.
He also does not oppose helping UPike, but a measure that helps that school at the expense of Morehead State is not palatable, he said.
"There's no question it would have a devastating impact on Morehead State University," Adkins said.
He floated an alternate idea: revise HB 260 to create a pool of money — perhaps from single-county or multi-county coal-severance funds — that would be available for Eastern Kentucky students to use at Pikeville, Morehead or other universities.
That would help students, boost enrollment at UPike and allow other schools to benefit as well, he said.
Stumbo and UPike President Paul Patton, a former governor, were not available for comment Monday.