Last updated: July 18. 2013 7:42PM - 326 Views
Rep. Hubert Collins

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Fourteen years ago, the Kentucky General Assembly made an important decision to dedicate Kentucky Lottery proceeds to specific college grant, scholarship and literacy programs. That decision has paid off for Kentucky students and the institutions they choose to attend.

Last fiscal year alone, 1,288 grants and scholarships totaling $2,013,556 were awarded to students in House District 97 through the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES), College Access Program (CAP) grants, and Kentucky Tuition Grants (KTG) programs operated by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, or KHEAA. Of those, 1,070 grants and scholarships worth $1.65 million went to students in Floyd County, 681 grants and scholarships worth $1.068 million went to students in Johnson County, 299 worth $433,736 went to students in Martin County, and 2,019 valued at $3.45 million went to students in Pike County.

That is an impressive tally by any standard, made more so by the fact that this investment has occurred despite a lingering recession that has slowed state budget expenditures in nearly every area except those areas protected by dedicated funding.

And this investment is not new. The Fiscal Year 2012 awards are just the latest KEES, CAP, and KTG funds distributed annually among students in our district since state lottery proceeds were directed to the programs in 1999. Total grant and scholarship awards, by county, over the past 14 years total a whopping $20.4 million for students in Floyd County, $12.07 million for students in Johnson County, $4.7 million for Martin County students, and $38.1 million for students in Pike County.

What about statewide? On that level, nearly 118,000 grants and scholarships were funded with Kentucky Lottery proceeds worth $187.9 million last year—a fraction of the more than 1,419,000 grants and scholarships worth over $1.8 billion that have been funded with Lottery proceeds since 1999. (This is in addition to the $732.5 million that the Kentucky Lottery contributed to the state General fund over the 14-year period.)

Colleges, universities, and vocational schools also benefit from dedicated Kentucky Lottery funding, of course. Four-year and two-year postsecondary institutions in every part of the state—including our region—have students enrolled who are recipients of KEES, CAP, or KTG awards. These institutions and the Kentuckians they serve who have benefited from the grant and scholarship programs might not be doing as well were it not for the Kentucky Lottery; Students have money to attend school and institutions have increasing enrollment, at least in part, because of the 1998 Kentucky General Assembly’s decision to dedicate Kentucky Lottery proceeds to the programs and literacy programs.

Kentucky Lottery President and CEO Arch Gleason himself reported in a February letter to each state legislator that “…since the start of the Kentucky Lottery-funded scholarship and grant programs, college attendance in the Commonwealth has jumped more than 40 percent.”

One great benefit of the grants and scholarships, especially KEES—which have been earned by around 90 percent of certified Kentucky high school graduates since 2004—is their impact on increasing the number of “first generation” college students in Kentucky. A recent study undertaken by Kentucky legislative staff explains that, while keeping the state’s “best and brightest” students in Kentucky to attend college or university is one goal of KEES, another is to increase access to higher education. Eligibility requirements for KEES were designed a little lower than similar programs in other states, the study explains, because of “a great concern about access” along with “a desire with the implementation of KEES to inspire students to do better in high school.” That explains the high percentage of earned KEES awards and, likewise, the roll KEES has played in beefing up enrollment at Kentucky’s postsecondary schools.

The study also points out that KEES eligibility allows “significant numbers of disadvantaged students who may not have seriously considered pursuing postsecondary education” to do so, and that is a great benefit. And, the better-performing student has the opportunity to earn more awards for each additional level of performance, which helps keep KEES competitive.

I was so pleased to see how well the programs are doing under the dedicated funding of our Kentucky Lottery. And, like most of you, I hope that tomorrow’s Kentucky leaders are not only educated in the Commonwealth but stay here to make our state a better place for all.

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