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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Proposed State Budget Continues to Divert Funds From College Financial Aid

Northern Kentucky University, one of the many in-state universities for which KY students can receive state financial aid.

Reporter, Fort Thomas Matters

FRANKFORT -- Lexington's Herald-Leader reported yesterday that Kentucky lawmakers will continue to divert KY Lottery proceeds away from state financial aid programs, if the 2014 budget is approved. This is despite the fact that, in 1998, the General Assembly decided that 100% of lottery proceeds should go toward education programs.

The diversion of funds began in 2009, and since then over $100 million in potential student financial aid has been repurposed, according to the report. In the proposed budget for fiscal year 2014, $24.6 million would be diverted, with another $33.7 million projected in 2015, and $42.7 million more in 2016.

"That's a good number of students who don't get the award because we don't get the money," said Carl Rollins, executive director of the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, to the Herald-Leader. In 2013 alone, the report states, nearly 86,000 qualified students were denied financial aid from state programs as a result.

In addition, due to diminishing funds, the most financial aid tends to go to families who need it least, the report explains. This is because when students begin applying for aid on Jan. 1, the money is usually gone by February. As a result, community college students and others who decide they want to apply later in the year are left out. 

According to a report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, nearly half of merit-based aid went to KY students from families with an annual income of over $75,000.

This trend also aligns with a recent decline in graduation rates of low-income students, reports have found. 

There are three forms of state financial aid available to prospective college students in Kentucky. The College Assistance Program (CAP) helps low-income students; the Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG) goes toward private university education, and the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) is a merit-based award system. KEES money is the only category not affected by the proposed budget.

While students can receive up to $2500 per year in KEES funding, with a few exceptions, this is hardly ever enough to provide all the financial support students need to afford a college diploma.

That's according to Ginger Webb, Fort Thomas Independent Schools Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. "It (KEES money) can be the tipping point in causing students to choose to attend college in our state, which was one of the primary goals," she said.

For students looking to the state for financial aid that will supplement the KEES money they've earned, that tipping point seems to be getting harder to reach.

Check out the Herald-Leader's report for a closer look.

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