House Speaker Greg Stumbo has released a compromise plan aimed at using coal severance dollars to improve college-going rates in Eastern Kentucky, rather than making the University of Pikeville a public school.
The new version of House Bill 260 would use the multi-county coal severance fund to award grants to students from a 16-county region, according to a news release Monday from Stumbo's office.
The bill will be in front of the House Education Committee at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Students who obtain four-year college degrees from a private, four-year school in the region could get grants as high as $6,000. Students who attend a state university with a qualified satellite campus in the region could earn grants as high as $2,000.
"My goal all along has been to increase the number of people from the mountains who want to get a four-year college degree while staying close to home, and this plan would be a major step forward in achieving that goal," said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, the bill's primary sponsor.
Stumbo and co-sponsor Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pike ville, had pushed the idea of a public UPike as a way to improve rates, but the idea ran into opposition from other higher-education constituencies and county officials.
Combs said she would keep trying to bring UPike into the state higher education system. "But for now, this middle ground will still help us meet the same goal of getting our region's college-graduation rate up," she said.
Under the plan, most of the money in the Kentucky Appalachian College Completion program would flow to private colleges, including UPike.
The grants would be funded with coal severance tax funds and private donations, and students would have to be enrolled at least half-time at a participating school. It would apply only for the last two years of college, after students had completed 60 credit hours. Each grant would be based in part on how many grants and scholarships a student has, but schools would be barred from lowering any other financial assistance.
The bill also would establish a program to further extend outreach services into the region's high schools to improve the region's college-going rates.