Students could see drop in KEES scholarships

Statewide budget cuts could affect how much money current UK students receive from the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, said a spokeswoman for the agency that manages the award.

In his proposed budget, Gov. Steve Beshear calls for a $13.1 million drop in KEES funding for next year.

The governor’s recommendation is non-binding, and any budget would have to be approved by the state legislature.

However, the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority is looking at where a budget cut would come from, said Lori Powers, the organization’s communications coordinator.

Beshear’s address is the first step in the long legislative process, Powers said, and nothing has been determined. If funds are low, Powers said one possibility is a cut in how much both current and incoming Kentucky college students receive from KEES.

Cuts could be equal across grade levels or vary depending on how many years of college the student has completed, she said.

About half of UK’s undergraduates,  9,188 students, receive KEES money, said UK spokesman Jay Blanton. The average award at UK is $1,794 per academic year, he said. Students can earn a maximum of $2,500 per year.

KEES awards money to in-state college students based on their grade-point-average for each year of high school and their ACT exam score. Students must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and an ACT score of 15 to qualify for the scholarship, according to the KHEAA Web site.

There has not been a cut in KEES funding since the program began in 1998, Powers said.

“All state agencies are being asked to tighten their belts,” she said. “It’s a difficult time right now, so we’re all concerned.”

Officials from the KHEAA met with members of the state budget office yesterday to discuss Beshear’s budget recommendation.

“They expressed concern and wanted to better understand the budget cuts,” said Mary Lassiter, state budget director.

In his budget address Tuesday, Beshear said Lassiter called the current revenue shortfalls “unprecedented.” Yesterday, Lassiter confirmed she has not seen a shortfall like this biennium’s in the last seven state budgets.

“The governor expressed regret at the level of reduction (for higher education funding) and hopes that it will be addressed if there are any further funds available,” Lassiter said.

What funds will be available to public universities, and what KEES money will be available to students, will not be known until April, when the legislature approves a budget.