Kentucky bill could make community college free

The cost of sending your child to college may soon be affected in a big way. Kentucky House Bill 626 would send any Kentucky high school graduate to a community or technical college for free.

It fills in the gap after federal money and scholarships. The student only has to maintain a 2.0 grade point average and be a high school graduate in Kentucky or have a GED by 19 years old.

McCracken County is home to Alli Swinford. She went to high school in McCracken County, and now attends West Kentucky Career and Technical College. “I wanted to get as far away from Paducah as possible. I really was the typical high school student, ready to graduate, ready to be done,” Swinford said. She quickly changed her mind when she looked at the price.

In eighth grade she learned about McCracken County’s community scholarship program. She says she thought it made sense to become a registered nurse and get a bachelor’s degree later with the money she’s saved.

That’s something WKCTC President Barbara Veazey champions every day. “Come to the community college. Get your start with us, whether it’s for a job or whether you’re going to transfer on,” Veazey said.

House Bill 626 is quite a bit different from the community scholarship program. If it passes, it won’t just affect students in Paducah or McCracken County. It’ll affect students in every community in Kentucky.

Veazey says regardless of whether the bill passes, West Kentucky will continue to thrive because of community support. She hopes the bill passes so people statewide will have a better opportunity to continue their education. “There are many of them that would never go to college because there was no hope.”

The bill would cost $14 million in its first year. It’s in an appropriations committee now. Debate on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday. 

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