Bill creating virtual computer science career academy passes Kentucky House

Students could earn college credits toward computer science degree before graduating high school

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky House on Monday passed HB 680, which would establish a virtual computer science career academy in Kentucky that would allow students to earn college credits toward a computer science degree before graduating high school.

Under the proposed legislation, students could earn up to 12 college credit hours through the academy toward a college program at any state school.

“This unique program provides vast possibilities for underrepresented students to access one of the nation’s fastest-growing career fields,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Ed Massey, of Hebron. “As we continue to identify and tackle the state’s pressing needs, we’re focused on building a talent pipeline centered on skills that are transferable across our highly skilled workforce needs.”

Computer science, particularly data science, is one of the fastest-growing and highest-demand job sectors nationwide. According to a recent study by Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education, 67-percent of the Commonwealth’s new STEM jobs will be in computer science, and there are nearly 3,000 open positions.

The measure expands upon the iLEAD Academy, a program for high schools in five rural school districts to earn dual credits toward high school graduation and a college degree in computer science. HB 680 takes that concept statewide with the WeLead CS Academy, making the program widely available to all students in the commonwealth at no cost.

“Data Science is the highest-demand job in America with an average annual salary of $117,000. WeLead CS will offer students the nation’s first Data Science career pathway and opportunity to earn 12-21 hours of college credit to get a jumpstart on computer science degrees,” said Alicia Sells, Director of Innovation and Communication at the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, who runs the academy.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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