KEES program may face critical changes

Amelia Hicks

The Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, known to many as KEES, is facing possible changes in the Kentucky Legislature.

House Bill 247, sponsored by Rep. James Tipton, proposes an expansion to the popular scholarship program. Under the new bill, the scholarship would be applicable to dual-credit courses, AP, IB or Cambridge test fees.

Tipton hopes the bill will allow more students to take dual-credit courses and provide KEES money to students not attending college, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. A student could then use their KEES scholarship to cover the cost of dual-credit vocational classes while in high school, possibly earning enough credit to receive certification in a field before graduating high school. If students choose to use their KEES money in high school, then they will not have as much money to use in college.

“The award amount remaining to be used as a postsecondary student would be reduced accordingly,” Cindy Burnette, WKU Student Financial Assistance director, said.

In addition, students must file a FAFSA in order to receives KEES money, according to the new bill.

Former state Rep. Carl Rollins, a critic of the bill, fears it surpasses its financial capacity, according to the Herald-Leader. The new program raises the automatic grant for students from $125 a year for a 2.5 GPA to $150 a year for a 2.0 GPA, opening the scholarship to more students, according to the bill.

According to the bill, the automatic grant will increase annually by the most recent annual percentage given by the Consumer Price Index published by the United States Department of Labor, beginning July 1, 2020.

“Generally, we are supportive of the opportunity to secure additional resources for our student population,” Burnette said. “However, not at the risk of jeopardizing the long-term sustainability of a program such as KEES.”

The bill also proposes a restriction on what the money can and cannot be used for. Currently, if the cost of tuition, fees and books is covered by other scholarships or grants, the student receives a check with the leftover KEES money to assist with the cost of housing and food. The new plan eliminates that policy. Any leftover KEES money would go back to the state under a statute known as “last dollar in,” according to the bill.

House Bill 247 is still being negotiated by lawmakers. It is currently in the House Standing Committee on Education.

News reporter Amelia Hicks can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].