Politics & Government

Ky. Senate panel backs push to expand uses for KEES college scholarship money

The Senate Education committee on Thursday approved a bill that addressed when high school students can use Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship money. .

The bill generated debate about whether high school students who take courses for both high school and college credit go out of state for college or stay in Kentucky.

The KEES program provides scholarships to students who earn at least a 2.5 GPA each year they attend a certified Kentucky high school. The better they do in high school, the more they earn toward college.

Senate Bill 87, sponsored by Sen. Stan Humphries, R-Cadiz, would allow high school seniors — beginning with the 2014-2015 school year — and high school juniors — in 2015-2016 — to use their KEES award to pay for courses that give them dual high school and college credit, as well as post-secondary technical courses.

In Fayette County, 541 students are taking dual-credit courses, spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said.

The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, which distributes KEES money, supports dual-credit courses but opposes the bill. Erin Klarer, the vice president of government affairs for KHEAA, said most students who take dual credit go out of state to four-year universities, and the purpose of KEES is to keep the best students in Kentucky for college. She said letting students use the money in high school would cause students to run out of KEES money by their senior year in college.

But some lawmakers and Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday disputed the contention that students who take courses for dual credit in high school leave the state for college.

After the committee met, Holliday said the "vast majority" of students who take dual credit courses at community colleges stay in Kentucky.