UK raises bar for full-ride Governor’s Scholarship



By Will Wright

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Michael Hamilton has been dead set on going to UK since the 8th grade.

It was the obvious choice — his dad, uncle and aunt are all UK alums, and his brother is a UK student.

That dream became much less likely when UK announced Governor’s Scholars with ACT scores below 31 would not get full-ride scholarships.

The Governor’s Scholars Program is an educational program for Kentucky students with good academic records and community service experience. Governor’s Scholars attend a five-week summer program free of charge to build their skills.

“It was probably the best educational experience of my life so far,” said Hamilton, who scored a 29 on the ACT. “The connection to GSP is an ultimate conversation starter. You could talk for days about it.”

UK used to give Governor’s Scholars a full scholarship if they scored a 28 or higher, but announced this summer that the bar was raised to 31 — the average Kentucky student scores 19.9.

“The change has definitely put a strain on my college search,” Hamilton said. “I don’t think anyone regrets the hard work that they put into the program, but for us, we spent the best five weeks of our life to come home and be told it’s not good enough. We come home and our flagship university tells us that. It was just a big letdown.”

Jumping three points from 28 to 31 in the ACT, a standardized test with English, math, reading and science sections can be difficult. The higher score you get on the ACT, the harder it is to improve.

“28 to 31 is not pretty big, it’s huge,” said Aristófanes Cedeño, executive director of the Governor’s Scholars Program.

UK accepts about 400 Governor’s Scholars every year and almost half of them score a 31 or higher, said UK spokesman Jay Blanton.

Blanton said the money that would have been given to Governor’s Scholars with a 28, 29 or 30 ACT score will be used for aid-based scholarships.

Just four percent of UK’s scholarships are need-based, and other full-ride scholarships require a 31 ACT score. Blanton said that creating this standard will help evenly distribute scholarship money.

UK hopes to help all Governor’s Scholars receive some scholarship money, even if it is not a full-ride, and also encourages people to retake the ACT if they are able, Blanton said.

But Hamilton said several of the friends he met through the Governor’s Scholar Program can’t afford to retake the $50 test four or five times.

“To expect someone to pay that much money in such a short amount of time … I just don’t think it’s realistic to expect that,” Hamilton said. “I can afford to take the test, but I know several that won’t be able to.”

Hamilton is looking at the University of Louisville as a backup, but said he would hide his Cardinals gear before coming home for Thanksgiving.

“It would put a little bit of strain in the family,” Hamilton said.