Gov. Bevin adjusts free two-year college plan

Kentucky governor Matt Bevin addresses the Commonwealth with his budget for the next two years on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at the Capitol building in Frankfort, Ky. The budget included a $110 million cut from UK’s state general funding, the elimination of Kynect, and a re-evaluation of status for those receiving Medicaid.

Kayla Coco

Free college can be obtained for Kentucky students, but with certain stipulations.

Proposed during the 2016 legislative session, the Work Ready Scholarship was a funding option for students pursuing two-year associate’s degrees who have exhausted all other financial aid options. However, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Matt Bevin and reintroduced through executive order with some significant changes.

Specifically, students would only be awarded funds through the scholarship if they were entering the five industries that need workers: health care, advanced manufacturing, transportation/logistics, business services/IT and construction. In addition, the bill would cover 32 hours of coursework over four academic semesters, a little over half the amount needed for completion of an associate’s degree.

UK financial aid counselor Derek Goode offered his own personal reflections on the changes to the bill.

“I feel that in the short-term it will help benefit people being able to take well-paying jobs with reduced debt,” Goode said. He also offered insight on the drawbacks to offering financial aid to specific trades.

“An individual’s job in a skilled trade may be taken over in the future due to automation,” Goode said. “Since this individual is trained to conduct that particular task, finding new employment could prove difficult without additional school, at an additional cost no longer covered under the free education, therefore creating more debt.”

Erin Klarer, vice-president of government relations for Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, referred to the bill as a “baby step” for secondary education, saying that changes would be made if needed.

The program is intended to get students with a high school diploma or GED into the workforce quickly. Students are now able to get state-funded certification from schools like Bluegrass Community and Technical College, which will increase opportunities for those in need of a job, even if those jobs are in specified careers.