“The KEES money should be used for that,” said DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown. “I would rather that KEES money go to vocational and community colleges, like we have in Hardin County, than I would to the larger universities. They have a different role in our state.”
DuPlessis has been working with the governor’s office to include about $15 million of KEES money to pay for two years of community or technical college for all future Kentucky high school graduates.
“The KEES scholarship is not needs based, it’s performance based,” he said. “Let’s first do it for anybody who wants to go to community college. Let’s send them and all the money that’s left over, and there will be a lot of money left over, can go to performance based for everybody else.”
Currently the KEES program, or Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, provides scholarships to students who earn at least a 2.5 GPA each year of high school. High school students also can earn awards for ACT/SAT scores and Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge Advanced International test scores.
It’s a plan that Elizabethtown Community and Technical College President and CEO Juston Pate said he can get behind.
DuPlessis said he is proposing the performance-based model will remain mostly, if not entirely, intact. He hopes the governor includes more money to pay for students to attend a community or technical post-secondary school free of charge.
“What we think about at KCTCS and at ECTC is, what are the ways we can increase the pipeline for these programs that lead to great jobs?” he said. “What Rep. DuPlessis is proposing is certainly a way to increase that pipeline — to give it visibility, to give it structure, to provide that opportunity for any graduate is important.”
The proposal is a shift from recent budget cycles that cut funding to higher education that Pate said is a welcomed change.
“I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “The conversation has really switched to investments in higher education and workforce training, which is needed.” Pate said the primary responsibility for schools in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, such as ECTC, is to provide college transfer and workforce education.
“Investments in us go directly toward student success,” he said. “That’s all we’re here for.” That model is important to the viability of the state’s workforce to not only attract new companies but keep current ones, Pate said.
“I think it’s vitally important for all us when you look at not just the new companies coming in but our existing companies to continually invest in the training,” he said. “Companies are investing in Kentucky and they’re locating in Kentucky and particularly in our region. The more we invest in educating and training their workforce, certainly, it’s a very timely need.” DuPlessis said he is being told to prop up this program would cost about $15 million a year.
For poor students who may not have the grades for KEES money, he said this plan makes a “whole lot of sense” for an educated and trained workforce. “If you look at the really poor in our society and those who would like to take a skilled trade job, if we could extend them with a full scholarship instead of a partial scholarship, we might get a lot more folks trained and we might get a lot less falling into crime and jail if we get more educated,” he said.
DuPlessis said his daughter is a KEES recipient, earning the cap for students each year at $2,500. While DuPlessis said the money is nice, it’s not a “stumbling block for her to attend college.” “If it is that low of a number and we are getting $300 million in KEES right now, that is very doable,” he said.