Bevin neglects need-based aid

Editorial Board

Legislators and other guests applauded Gov. Matt Bevin for his plans to give Kentucky Lottery money back to higher education.

Unfortunately, the proposal is not as good as it sounds. Though Bevin plans to put all Kentucky Lottery funds to where they were intended — in higher education — he neglected the requirement that the funds should go to need-based aid.

According to Kentucky law (KRS 154A.130), funds from the Kentucky Lottery should be allocated as follows:

—$3 million to literacy development.

—45 percent of remaining funds to KEES scholarships.

—55 percent of remaining funds to need-based scholarships through the College Access Program and Kentucky Tuition Grants Program. 

However, Kentucky legislators have diverted funds meant for need-based scholarships to the general fund to help balance the budget.

In 2015, CAP and KTG were shorted by $28 million. According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, if the correct amount had been allocated, 15,000 people who were denied aid would have received it.

Bevin’s proposal is to put the lottery revenue back into higher education, but he is not proposing to put it into need-based financial aid as intended. Bevin plans to form a new scholarship program, which helps students attend special workforce programs.

Executive director of the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, Carl Rollins, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the new scholarship fund would, “help students pay to attend new programs that would be created by the workforce development fund.” 

Details of this program have yet to be released.

While returning the lottery funds to education is commendable, need-based financial aid should come first.

Why is it that KEES — which serves Kentuckians from all income ranges — remains fully funded, but CAP and KTG continue to be underfunded?

Federal scholarship money should go to the most needy first, but recent Kentucky budgets, including Bevin’s proposal, put them last. 

As long as CAP and KTG remain underfunded, the gap between the wealthy and poor in Kentucky will grow even further, and getting out of poverty will become more difficult.

Applause was certainly well-deserved for Bevin’s proposal to put lottery funds back into higher education, but the unfortunate consequence was a refusal to extend a much-needed helping hand to the poor in Kentucky.

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