Proposal would expand KEES student funds to trade and technical schools

Program would open scholarship opportunities to more students

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Mason County Republican Rep. William Lawrence introduced a bill aimed at expanding learning opportunities beyond the traditional college route. The bill, HB 234, allows students to use scholarships earned through the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) program at trade and proprietary schools.

Lawrence’s measure opens up avenues for students to earn a certificate or associate degree in a high-demand field. It ensures students have more options to study subjects like welding, plumbing, and cosmetology, as well as certificates to become emergency medical technicians (EMTs), electricians, embalmers, and funeral home directors.

“We know for a fact that not everyone wants to go to the traditional route and get a four-year degree. In fact, there’s a great need for those who choose trades and other industries. It’s important to find creative ways that meet the increased demand for a skilled talent pool, especially with the state’s rising labor shortages,” said Lawrence. “Let’s help these learners get into careers they enjoy and can build a life doing.”

Under the provisions of HB 234, a proprietary institution must be licensed by the Kentucky Commission on Proprietary Education, have operated for at least five years, and have its headquarters or main campus physically located in the Commonwealth.

“The question here is how can we prepare and invest in the Commonwealth’s future success,” said Rep. Matt Koch (R-Bourbon), a primary cosponsor of the bill. “As a product of one of these schools, I know firsthand the amount of good that this change will accomplish. These programs offer many different avenues for our youth to discover viable career paths that may not be on their radar. We hope that this proactive step provides more support and better meets the financial needs of students working toward their goals.”

The KEES program provides students with scholarship money based on high school grades and receiving good scores on the ACT. Home school students and GED graduates are also eligible for KEES funds based on ACT scores.

Another cosponsor, Rep. Patrick Flannery (R-Olive Hill), pointed out that enrollment in trade schools and community colleges continues to rise, especially in rural counties. Kentucky’s Community and Technical College System reportedly awarded the most credentials in its more than two-decade history this past year.

“This is about workforce development,” said Flannery. “This is why we are advocating to remove obstacles for Kentuckians who want to pursue a career in these high-demand occupations and industries.”

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